New Delhi: Even as rumors of a military coup against Chinese President Xi Jinping exploded on social media – with the hashtag #chinacoup trending for several hours over the weekend – experts as well as journalists in post in Beijing dismissed the allegations, saying there was no evidence to back them up.
“Looks like a lot of alternative media in India picked up the rumour,” Aadil Brar, ThePrint columnist and China expert tweeted. ‘There is no putsch’ Brar suggested Xi could be quarantined after his recent overseas summit, as required by Chinese law.
Greg Fanlon, China correspondent for the German newspaper The Speigelmocked the coup allegations in post pictures of normalcy in Beijing. “Elite paratroopers have taken over the gate,” he posted from outside the Zhongnanhai presidential compound.
“I found no evidence in Beijing today to support the social media rumours,” tweeted Ananth Krishnan, The Hindus correspondent in Beijing.
Twitter users had claimed the powerful Chinese president was ousted and placed under house arrest after returning from Samarkand, where he attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in 2022. While photographs of the alleged Xi’s successor, People’s Liberation Army General Li Qiaoming, were widely publicized, other shared videos of what they claimed to be military movements of the Chinese army.
The rumors seem to have gained traction in India after the Bharatiya Janata Subramaniam Swamy Party posted a tweet reporting the rumour. Others who tweeted about the “coup” early on included media personality Suhel Seth.
China’s tight media control and lack of transparent information has often fueled rumors on social media. A decade ago, reports of a coup against Xi proliferated on microblogging sites, following the dismissal of Chinese Communist Party apparatchik Bo Xilai. Chinese authorities responded by arresting more than 1,200 people for spreading false information.
The rumors appear to be fueled by a larger narrative of “internal opposition” to President Xi playing out in Western media. In Foreign Affairs, the former teacher of the Communist Party school, Cai Xia, argued in this direction. This could be one of the reasons the rumor is gaining traction.
Drew Thompson, a visiting senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, believes the latest rumors sound like “wishful thinking”.
A coup against Xi Jinping is still possible, but the rumors that are spreading today do not seem to be the day.
This might be wishful thinking on the part of some people. It could be the horrors of Twitter’s algorithm.
But that doesn’t seem true to me, not at this point.
— Drew Thompson 唐安竹 (@TangAnZhu) September 23, 2022
International media largely failed to report on the rumour, although Indian media picked up speed.
Foreign Police associate editor James Palmer tweeted that “there is absolutely no source of information on the claims of the ‘coup in China’, which are relayed by the Indian media which have proven time and time again that they are not good for the China”.
Air operations and strikes
Those who sniffed out a ‘coup’ pointed to China’s halt to air operations since Saturday to back up their claim, arguing that a sharp drop in domestic flights, especially to Tibet, hints at a political problem. wider in the country.
— Sree Iyer (@SreeIyer1) September 25, 2022
However, Open Source Intelligence specialist Oliver Alexander denied claims of a drop in flights, saying there was no change in flights over China, compared to there. a week old. Alexander also explained that commercial flights barely operate over Tibet.
Literal Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists are now falling for this complete bullshit…
For the 300th time today. THERE ARE NO CHANGES IN FLIGHTS OVER CHINA COMPARED TO 1 WEEK AGO. https://t.co/TxC2AabN1p pic.twitter.com/rCPiLFeJJN
— Oliver Alexander (@OAlexanderDK) September 24, 2022
Meanwhile, Thomson, a former US Department of Defense official responsible for China, Mongolia and Taiwan, explained that the main factors of a coup would include – messages in government-controlled media talk of a coup, voices within the military discussing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leadership, the declaration of martial law in Beijing, and dramatic shifts in the CCP’s political calendar.
All of this seems to be missing in the current scenario, he added.
What are the main indicators of a palace coup that I would look for in Beijing?
– “Off” messages in state-controlled media
– Authentic voices from PLA/PSB discussing CCP civilian leadership
– Declaration of martial law in Beijing
– Dramatic changes in the political calendar of the CCP
— Drew Thompson 唐安竹 (@TangAnZhu) September 24, 2022
No smoke without fire
Professor M. Taylor Fravel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an authority on China, hinted that although the rumors are false, the nature of their spread could indicate some plausibility.
Thread on ‘coup in China’ rumors circulating https://t.co/C1BProCHVk
— Mr. Taylor Fravel (@fravel) September 24, 2022
Gordon Chang, the author of ‘The impending collapse of China and The Great US-China Tech War », argued that the recent arrest of top Chinese leaders indicates great unrest within the CCP leadership. While he doubted there was a coup, Chang said the halt in bus and train traffic out of Beijing was unusual.
“There was a lot of smoke, that means there is a fire somewhere,” he said.
(Editing by Tony Rai)
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