BEIJING – It should be easy for China's Communist Party to quash the speculation — from plausible to outlandish — about the unexplained absence of the country's next leader: Just trot him out in public to show that he is hale and hearty.
Yet as Xi Jinping's absence carried into an 11th day Wednesday, party officials were saying nothing. Their silence only added to the momentum of the rumors and raised an important question: What happens to China's once-a-decade leadership transition if the 59-year old is unable to assume the mantle of power as planned later this fall?
Xi is China's vice president and has not been seen in public since Sept. 1. Since then, he has missed planned meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other foreign dignitaries.