China politics expert Kerry Brown said he was highly sceptical that there was anything more to be read into Xi’s brief absence.
“I guess if there was deep dissatisfaction with Xi’s leadership in the elite … We would have seen at least a bit of evidence,” said Brown, professor of Chinese Studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London. “And I don’t think we’ve seen much evidence of that.”
The party is inherently risk averse, and any person or group seeking to pull off such a radical action would have a very tough time attacking an edifice that has been built almost entirely around Xi, Brown said.
Rumours of coups and infighting are not unusual ahead of sensitive political dates, but the People’s Liberation Army — the party’s military wing — has been disciplined by a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.
“I think it’s wishful thinking maybe in Hong Kong and elsewhere,” he said. “I wouldn’t think it very credible.”