Flaming rumors blazed across the globe Saturday over unsubstantiated social media reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping is under house arrest amid a military coup.
As of Sunday morning, major news sources were not reporting any unrest in China. However, Newsweek reported the rumors claim the People’s Liberation Army has intervened to detain Xi.
Key elements in the rumors have been a number of flights canceled at Beijing’s airport and a supposed armored column moving through the country. Xi has also not been publicly seen in recent days.
Rumors are swirling across the internet of a military coup in China and that Xi Jinping is under arrest after CCP seniors removed him as head of the PLA. Is the massive cancellation of flights in China just a military exercise, or is there something more to it? pic.twitter.com/VDyQZacM2T
— Theresa Fallon (@TheresaAFallon) September 23, 2022
#PLA military vehicles heading to #Beijing on Sep 22. Starting from Huanlai County near Beijing & ending in Zhangjiakou City, Hebei Province, entire procession as long as 80 KM. Meanwhile, rumor has it that #XiJinping was under arrest after #CCP seniors removed him as head of PLA pic.twitter.com/hODcknQMhE
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferatntd) September 23, 2022
New rumour to be checked out: Is Xi jingping under house arrest in Beijing ? When Xi was in Samarkand recently, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party were supposed to have removed Xi from the Party’s in-charge of Army. Then House arrest followed. So goes the rumour.
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) September 24, 2022
Gordon Chang, an expert on the communist giant and author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” cast doubt on the reports, but wrote in a Twitter post that their emergence is a signal of something stirring the murky waters of China’s internal politics.
The lack of news from #China over the last few hours suggests coup rumors are untrue, but whatever happened inside the #Chinese military during the last three days—evidently something unusual occurred—tells us there is turbulence inside the senior #CCP leadership.
— Gordon G. Chang (@GordonGChang) September 24, 2022
“The lack of news from #China over the last few hours suggests coup rumors are untrue, but whatever happened inside the #Chinese military during the last three days—evidently something unusual occurred—tells us there is turbulence inside the senior #CCP leadership,” he tweeted.
“There’s been a lot of smoke — that says there is a fire somewhere,” Chang said.
“We don’t think that there has actually been a coup; but at this point there have been some extremely troubling developments at the top of the Communist Party, as well as the top of the People’s Liberation Army, which reports to the party. So something is terribly wrong,” he said.
Chang’s take was that some elements within China want to oust Xi and have started the rumor mill spinning as a way to weaken him.
“Xi Jinping has jailed three figures, some of them for life sentences; so that by itself roils the situation. But the mere fact that someone is trying to destabilize the regime — and that’s really, I think, the source of these rumors — says that at this point, the regime itself is going through turmoil,” Chang said.
“They’re going to have their 20th national congress, which starts on the 16th of next month; and that’s where Xi Jinping either gets or doesn’t get his unprecedented third term as general secretary of the party — in other words, China’s ruler. And that means, I think, that we see some senior figures figure that they can try to give Xi Jinping a punch in the gut before then,” he said.
Others also said it was unlikely that a coup has taken place, including Drew Thompson, a former Department of Defense official who focused on China, Taiwan and Mongolia.
I wake up to DMs, and find a twitter feed full of unverified rumors about Xi Jinping under arrest in a palace coup.
It appears to be a complete falsehood at this point, but the spread of the rumor indicates belief in its plausibility.
— Drew Thompson 唐安竹 (@TangAnZhu) September 23, 2022
Other leading indicators:
– leadership travel plans upended
– even more visible security presence in major cities
– detentions of other senior officials, not just the general secretary
– Tension between security forces, including PLA, PSB, PAP and key security organs
— Drew Thompson 唐安竹 (@TangAnZhu) September 24, 2022
Chang said not to expect any official clarification about what is taking place in China.
“That’s not the Communist Party style,” he said, referring to a 2015 incident in which false rumors flared of unrest in Beijing.
“The Communist Party is not going to admit to the Chinese people about instability unless it is completely obvious and they have no choice but to. And we’re really not at that stage yet,” he said.