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Mystery deepens over Chinese leader's absence
 
Xi Jinping, born into affluence but forced into years of harsh labor when his father ran afoul of Chairman Mao, has since worked his way up in the Communist Party, and is slated to assume China's presidency next year.
Xi Jinping, born into affluence but forced into years of harsh labor when his father ran afoul of Chairman Mao, has since worked his way up in the Communist Party, and is slated to assume China's presidency next year.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to become the country's president in a matter of weeks, canceled a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Monday, the latest in a string of absences that has stirred rumors about Xi's health. Xi previously skipped out on scheduled meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, behavior that China watchers are describing as highly irregular. Rumors are circulating on the internet that Xi might be suffering from a bad back or heart problems, and there is even speculation that his disappearance from the public eye may have a more sinister explanation. Xi's peculiar absences threaten to disrupt China's once-in-a-decade leadership transition, which has also been marred by a slowing economy and a political scandal involving the alleged murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by the wife of Bo Xilai, a top party official.

 

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