Xi re-emerges as Chinese leaders condone anti-Japan protests

September 16, 2012

By KENJI MINEMURA/ Correspondent

BEIJING--Vice President Xi Jinping’s first public appearance after his highly publicized two-week disappearance came amid raging anti-Japan demonstrations sweeping China over the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Xi, who is expected to ascend to the top position of the Chinese Communist Party, was shown visiting an agricultural university in Beijing in a news program on the night of Sept. 15 by China Central Television.

The footage showed Xi, 59, donning a navy jacket and looking in good health, chatting with university officials while animatedly waving his arms. He also joined children in conducting experiments.

The party’s internal report purported that Xi was injured in a swimming pool accident.

But he did not appear to be suffering any aftereffects of the purported injury in the TV report.

Xi’s disappearance sent ripples throughout the party as foreign media and Internet posters speculated that he was suffering from liver cancer or had been the subject of a murder attempt.

A healthy Xi needed to be seen in public at the earliest opportunity, according to an official with the state-run media.

The party’s national congress, which is held every five years, is expected to start in October. But the party has yet to announce the opening date of the congress, which in the past was announced by late August.

An official close to the party said the delay represented "unprecedented confusion.”

The announcement on the congress has been postponed because some appointments in the top leadership have not been finalized yet, according to the official.

Massive anti-Japan rallies around China are taking place as the Communist Party’s top leadership is undergoing a fierce power struggle to place its members on its highest decision-making organ.

At a protest rally staged in front of the Japanese Embassy on Sept. 15, some Chinese protesters shouted harsh slogans such as “Declare war on Japan.”

A hard-line approach to the sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku Islands appears to be gaining support.

An online poll showed that more than 90 percent of respondents backed the use of armed force to resolve the dispute.

“Citizens should raise their voices in place of a weak-kneed government,” said a man in his 30s who took part in an anti-Japan protest.

The Chinese government took retaliatory steps to prod the Japanese government to revoke its Sept. 11 purchase of three of the Senkaku Islands from a private owner.

Beijing repeatedly warned the Japanese government about the purchase as amounting to Japan's assertion of its control of the islands, which the Chinese also claim and call Diaoyu.

Ranking officials with the Chinese government repeated inflammatory remarks over the Senkaku issue, fanning anti-Japan sentiment.

But such actions run the risk of backing the Chinese government into a corner.

Beijing might see protest rallies become more violent and lead to sweeping social unrest.

If Beijing cannot win concessions from Japan over the feud, it may have to face up to the ensuing public condemnation.

China’s new leadership will be forced to walk a thin line by steering clear of the possible eruption of public outrage toward itself and by averting further escalation of the confrontation with Japan, while reining in the infighting in the party and solidifying its base.

By KENJI MINEMURA/ Correspondent
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In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, center, attends an activity to mark this year's National Science Popularization Day at China Agricultural University in Beijing, on Sept. 15, 2012. China's presumed next leader Xi made an appearance Saturday for the first time since dropping from public view earlier this month, a two-week absence that fueled rumors about his health and raised questions about the stability of the country's succession process. (AP Photo)

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, center, attends an activity to mark this year's National Science Popularization Day at China Agricultural University in Beijing, on Sept. 15, 2012. China's presumed next leader Xi made an appearance Saturday for the first time since dropping from public view earlier this month, a two-week absence that fueled rumors about his health and raised questions about the stability of the country's succession process. (AP Photo)

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  • In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, center, attends an activity to mark this year's National Science Popularization Day at China Agricultural University in Beijing, on Sept. 15, 2012. China's presumed next leader Xi made an appearance Saturday for the first time since dropping from public view earlier this month, a two-week absence that fueled rumors about his health and raised questions about the stability of the country's succession process. (AP Photo)
  • Anti-Japan protesters march near the Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai, China, on Sept. 16. Japan's leader said the dispute was affecting the safety of Japanese citizens in China. (AP Photo)

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