The Speaker
Saturday, 20 July 2024 – 06:43

Has there been a coup in China?

As the Current President of China Xi Jinping heads towards an unprecedented third term, an increasingly fervent and hostile atmosphere has emerged amongst China’s highest-ranking officials with rumours spreading of an imminent coup.

No Chinese leader has served three consecutive terms in charge of the country since the rule of Mao Zedong between 1943 and 1976. However, since Xi’s decision to overturn the two-term limit on China’s Presidents in 2018, he could effectively position himself as leader for life. The decision, whilst attracting some sparse minor disapproval from government critics, sparked no real national debate questioning the major constitutional alteration. As Xi approaches the end of his second term in 2023, plans are already being drawn up for the almost 2300 upcoming Chinese Communist Party central committee delegates, announced on Sunday by state media. But as the electoral process rumbles on, rumours have spread across Asia and on social media platforms surrounding a potential military coup.

Why have these rumours been circulating?

According to reports coming from around half a dozen Asian countries including India and Singapore, Xi Jinping has recently been placed under house arrest and is set to be replaced by senior army commander Li Qiaoming. These rumours, whilst usually unfounded, come at a particularly secretive and suspicious time for Chinese politics, accompanied by mass flight cancellations across the country. The Chinese President has not been seen in public since his attendance at the SCO summit in Uzbekistan last weekend, but his absence has been dismissed by several close officials as a period of quarantine.

The latest rumours of a potential coup closely follow one of the largest political purges within China’s congress for many years. Chinese courts have recently jailed the former Vice-Minister of Public Security Sun Lijun, the former justice minister Fu Zhenghua, and former police chiefs of Shanghai, Chongqing and Shanxi on corruption charges. These men have had accusations made against them by Chinese officials claiming they were disloyal to Xi and his campaign; instead opting to support a political sub-group organised by Sun.

How plausible are the rumours?

Despite the widespread murmurings of a military coup occurring, international relations analysts state they have little credibility and are almost entirely caused by the opaque nature of Chinese politics. One scholar of Chinese public policy, Drew Thompson, said a coup in China wasn’t entirely implausible, but the rumours circulating over the weekend were rather “wishful thinking” by social media and political commentators.

Despite the widespread murmurings of a military coup occurring, international relations analysts state they have little credibility and are almost entirely caused by the opaque nature of Chinese politics. One scholar of Chinese public policy, Drew Thompson,said a coup in China wasn’t entirely implausible, but the rumours circulating over the weekend were rather “wishful thinking” by social media and political commentators.

Regardless of whether these rumours have any validity, such stories have further highlighted the lack of transparency for which Chinese politics is infamous. It has also shown that Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power as China’s leader for the foreseeable future, is not without public scrutiny, and will require a strong and steadfast transition leading to his third term in 2023.

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