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Drew Thompson 唐安竹


Sep 23

15 tweets

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.

The claimed source of the information is an “investigative journalist” named Zhao Lanjian who tweeted that 60% of China’s flights have been cancelled, which is an indication of a coup. @Edward N Luttwak might agree that flight cancellations are not the opening phase of a coup.

I don’t follow “Zhao Lanjian” on Twitter, and when I looked for his account, I could not find it. Falungong media is amplifying the rumor which makes it suspect too. Zhao has written several articles for New Tang Dynasty TV, which is a Falungong outlet.

The rumor that Xi Jinping has been arrested has legs because it is such a sensitive political moment in China, and the recent trials (and convictions) of long-serving senior officials creates a hothouse atmosphere.

Open discussion of opposition to Xi makes the rumors plausible. Despite the lack of evidence that Xi faces internal opposition, speculation persists. This enhances plausibility of the rumor, or hope for some, that Xi gets arrested.

Former Party School professor Cai Xia’s recent flawed article in Foreign Affairs enhances plausibility that Xi could fall victim to a coup. She argues that Xi faces significant internal opposition due to political oppression and bad policies. She is now a dissident in exile.

A palace coup in a time of political pressurisation is not implausible. Gorbachev and Yeltsin were detained during the USSR-Russia transition period. A coup is not an anathema to China either. Emperor Guangxu was arrested by Dowager Empress Cixi when he attempted reforms.

Assessments that Xi Jinping is concerned about coups are not new either. It was a persistent theme in 2015. Some rumors spread that Xi slept in a different bed each night like Arafat.…

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Power struggle has Xi leery of coup, assassination attempts

The involvement of the Central Guards Bureau in a coup adds to the authenticity of a rumor. @Edward N Luttwak would agree that palace guards play important roles in the outcome of a coup. Like every leader, Xi replaced his guards in 2015.…

A coup against Xi Jinping is always possible, but the rumors spreading today don't sound like today is the day. It might be wishful thinking on some people's part. It might be the horrors of Twitter's algorithm. But it does not sound true to me, not at this point.

I suspect @Bill Bishop is going to be late tonight. That is not an indicator of a coup either.

What some leading indicators of a palace coup that I would look for in Beijing? - "Off" messages in state-controlled media - Authentic PLA/PSB voices discussing civilian CCP leadership - Declaration of martial law in Beijing - Dramatic changes to the CCP political calendar

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

Flight cancellations would be a lagging indicator, not a leading one. During covid, flight cancellations have been the norm, including in and out of Beijing.

What do rumors of Xi Jinping being arrested have to do with Ukraine and Putin? Is Putin next? Cue the hot takes. Wang Yi is right, however. The international situation is complex, and volatile with increasing uncertainties.

Drew Thompson 唐安竹


Former Department of Defense official responsible for China, Taiwan and Mongolia. Relapsed academic, now based in Singapore @LKYSch.

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