Chinese President Xi Jinping squashed unfounded rumors of a coup amid his absence by making his first public appearance since his trip to Central Asia followed by his disappearance from the public eye. The rumors suggested that he may be under house arrest by dissident party members however, the leader was seen viewing an exhibit in Beijing on Tuesday.

According to CNN, the exhibit was a showcase of China’s achievements under Xi’s decade in power. News outlets show Xi wearing a facemask viewing the displays with photos of him featured all over the Beijing Exhibition Hall. Premier Li Keqiang and other top leaders accompanied Xi during the viewing, including members of the party's Politburo Standing Committee.

Xi had been missing from the public eye since his trip to Uzbekistan for a regional summit on Sep16, making it his first regional trip since the start of the pandemic. This absence of the Chinese leader is what sparked a series of rumors that spread like wildfire over social media. Rumors and speculations were overthrown by a top party member who said the leader was placed under house arrest as the supposed coup was underway.

Chinese dissident networks played a part in the spread of these rumors and were amplified further by Indian media to the point that the hashtag “chinacoup” started trending on Twitter, with the opaque nature of the Chinese political system also fueling the fire of speculation.

Reports from Al Jazeera said that Xi may procure a third term in office in an upcoming Party Congress on Oct. 16, and possibly more in the future with further machinations, breaking party traditions and potentially making him president-for-life. Despite a moribund economy, the pandemic, and the occasional protests, coupled with rising tensions from the west over Taiwan, Xi is set to become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. 

Xi managed to secure his current position by cleaning house, removing any party members disloyal to him, and weakening the power of factions and elders within the party thwarting any potential plot to remove him from office. Former Vice Minister of Public Security Sun Lijun, former Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua, and former police chiefs of Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shanxi were arrested on charges of corruption. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a news conference, displayed on a television screen Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a news conference, displayed on a television screen at a shopping area on June 30, 2022 in Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its handover from Britain to China on July 1. Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images