Xi makes first public appearance since returning from overseas

Xi makes first public appearance since returning from overseas
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(Sept 28): President Xi Jinping reemerged after not being seen in public since his first foreign trip in more than two years earlier this month.

Xi, wearing a mask, visited an exhibition in Beijing on Tuesday about China’s achievements over the past decade, state-run news outlet Xinhua reported. The Chinese leader was accompanied by the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee, a sign of unity after rumours circulated on Twitter about a challenge to his power.

Xi’s public appearance comes after he returned to Beijing from a summit in Uzbekistan at midnight on Sept 16. Prior to that trip, the Chinese leader last went abroad in January 2020, when he visited Myanmar days before locking down the central city of Wuhan and entering a long spell of Covid isolation.

His recent absence was consistent with China’s strict Covid protocols, which mandate all international arrivals undergo seven days of hotel quarantine, followed by three days of home isolation. It was the second time Xi has at least given the impression of adhering to his nation’s Covid Zero rules.

In July, the Chinese leader wasn’t seen in public for almost two weeks after a two-day trip to Hong Kong to celebrate 25 years of Chinese rule in the city. That marked his first time outside mainland China in more than two years, although he didn’t stay overnight in the finance hub.

As the rest of the world has shifted to living with the virus, China has stuck to a Covid Zero policy that aims to eliminate infections. That strategy has weighed on growth forecasts and sparked domestic criticism, most recently after a quarantine center transfer bus crashed killing some two dozen people.

While Xi’s recent sweep through Central Asia marked his return to the world stage, the Chinese leader displayed a more cautious approach to the virus than his peers. Xi wore a face covering when meeting several counterparts and skipped a mask-free dinner at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan.

Xi’s has made tough Covid measures a cornerstone of his leadership, with state media citing the nation’s lower death toll as evidence China has a superior governance model to the US and its Western allies. Virus measures are set to tighten as Xi prepares for a twice-in-a-decade leadership summit next month, where he’s expected to secure a precedent-busting third term in office.