September 15, 2012 - 09:32 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - China's presumed next leader made an appearance Saturday, Sept 15, 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, according to the AP.
Vice President Xi Jinping appeared at China Agricultural University in Beijing for activities marking National Science Popularization Day, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Photos posted to the government's official website showed Xi being shown plant exhibits. Dressed casually in an open-necked shirt and black windbreaker, he appeared smiling with no sign of disability or ill health.
The AP says that the three-line Xinhua report did not address why Xi had not been seen publicly since Sept. 1. Since then, he has canceled meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. The Chinese government has yet to explain Xi's public absence.
The U.S.-based website Boxun.com, a clearinghouse for leaked information about China's leadership, said Xi had canceled all public appearances in order to prepare for the ruling Communist Party's upcoming leadership congress, at which he is to take over as party leader. That's the first step in a generational leadership transition that will see him assume the presidency next spring, embarking on what is expected to be a decade at the helm of the world's most populous nation and second-largest economy.
In addition to deciding personnel matters, Xi is heavily involved in drafting a major report to be delivered at the congress, as well as possible amendments to the party's constitution. While Xi hasn't indicated what if any changes he plans to make, expectations are high for gradual economic and political reforms to meet China's changing circumstances, three decades after the abandonment of orthodox Marxism.