Li Qiaoming: General at Center of China Coup Rumors on Social Media

Unsubstantiated reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping is under house arrest and that China is in the midst of a military coup swirled on social media on Saturday.

Among the unproven rumors circulating is that Li Qiaoming, a general for the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's military, has replaced Xi.

Li was born in 1961 and was promoted to serve as a general—the PLA's highest rank—in 2019, according to Indian television station OdishaTV. Li is also a member of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) central committee.

Li had been considered a contender to serve as a member of China's Central Military Commission—a panel with authority over military decision—according to news outlet Nikkei Asia. Several members of the seven-member body are expected to retire next month.

Li Qiaoming: General Discussed in Coup Rumors
Above, China's President Xi Jinping is seen on September 15. Unsubstantiated reports that Jinping is under house arrest and has been replaced by a general named Li Qiaoming swirled on social media on Saturday. Alexandr Demyanchuk

Nikkei Asia reported that Li wrote an article that resonated with Xi, who has wanted to increase the communist party's control over the army.

"The Soviet Union collapsed because the party didn't have its own army," Li's article stated, according to the outlet.

Indian Twitter accounts have seemed to prominently promote the rumors about the Chinese president.

The rumor that Xi had been ousted was boosted by Indian politician Subramanian Swamy, who tweeted Saturday: "When Xi was in Samarkand recently, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party were supposed to have removed Xi from the Party's in-charge of Army. Then House arrest followed. So goes the rumour."

Last week, Xi attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his opening remarks, Putin wished Xi success at the Chinese Communist Party's 20th National Congress next month. CCP members are expected to grant Xi an unprecedented third term as leader at the twice-a-decade event, which traditionally involves a change in leadership after two terms.

Gordon Chang, an expert on China and the author of the book, The Coming Collapse of China, tweeted Saturday that the "lack of news from #China over the last few hours suggests coup rumors are untrue, but whatever happened inside the #Chinese military during the last three days—evidently something unusual occurred—tells us there is turbulence inside the senior #CCP leadership."

"The unexpected events in #China started right after #XiJinping came back from #Uzbekistan and disappeared from sight for days, something unusual for him. There are extremely few coincidences in elite #CCP politics," he later added.

In an interview with Newsmax on Saturday, Chang said that there have been "unusual" and "abnormal" events occurring in China over the last few days, including what he said were the country's decision to cancel 60 percent of its flights on Wednesday and suspend bus and high speed rail travel in and out of Beijing.

He also mentioned a widely shared video posted on Twitter is also reported to show a line of military vehicles up to 80 kilometers long heading into Beijing amid reports of a military coup.

"There's been a lot of smoke, that says there is a fire somewhere. We don't think that there has actually been a coup, but at this point there have been some extremely troubling developments at the top of the Communist Party as well as the top of the People's Liberation Army, which reports to the party, so something is terribly wrong," Chang said.

Newsweek has reached out to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese Embassy for comment.