China is not Maharashtra – Pray don’t Search for Leads!

Bloody hell, China is neither Goa, nor Maharashtra. (I’m leaving out Bihar here)

It is not a fickle democracy, rather sophistically termed as people’s democracy.

Even the coup against the Ts took a long while to brew before it could be confirmed that Brutus had indeed ran away to Gujarat with dozens of other turncoats. Hopefuls keep scrolling channels and twitter handles to get some breaking news from Jharkhand which they claim is imminent. Rebellions, defections, and regime changes follow their own pace, which is governed by history, geography and state of economy of that system. Audience’s hunger for sensational scoops does not decide the scope, pace and intensity of mayhem. TRPs cannot make a ripe apple fall from the tree. But in the ‘aaya Ram, gaya Ram’ politics of India, a new political crisis looms every day in some part of the country. But the world would not see the back of Eleven Ping Pong by wishing, or refreshing their twitter feeds. I am surprised to find so many friends asking for confirmation about the coup on WhatsApp groups.

As if, even Joe Biden or Elon Musk would know!

Indians are really taken in by the insta-news. We have been spoilt crazy by watching for decades how unstable can political formations be. Party-hopping, legislator-shopping, rushing to resorts, horse-trading, pulling of rugs from below the feet of your leaders, change of heart, voice of conscience, loss of faith, and overnight dismissals of elected governments by lackey Governors- we are accustomed to applauding such immorality in the name of celebration of democracy. West calls such intrigues Machiavellian, we dub them ‘Chanankyesque’, and more recently, label them as ‘masterstrokes’. ‘Political management’ is also a commonly thrown euphemism. 

We are addicted to r second-by-second updates as if political fortunes are akin to stock prices, or cricket scores. China is not a stock, it is real estate, the Middle Kingdom itself ! CPC is not an IPL team, which shall allow Hotstar to shoot inside its dugout or dressing room. This is the most opaque country in the world that we are talking about. You won’t find confirmations or updates on WhatsApp groups or on Twitter, for heaven’s sake. No one shall confirm, nor deny anything. Black smoke might emanate from the chimneys of Zhongnanhai one day, and we might be left to interpret the signal in whatever way we can. Xi might continue for the rest of his life, or be removed tomorrow- that’s not the point. But who holds the real power, the rest of the world would not be able to comprehend in a hurry. The specialists (read diplomatic corps, Western media and self-professed gurus) shall get busy in interpreting soft signals- who is seated at the centre, who spoke before whom, and who after, who received the maximum applause at the party convention, who got the longest standing ovation etc. to hazard guesses on the Chinese hierarchy.

China does not count ballots, or holds lucky draws. There are no confidence or no-confidence motions to be moved in the party congress. Whatever has happened, or has not, shall reveal itself gradually, in a slow fashion- till one day the reality dawns upon us, and becomes accepted as the fact.

A lot of bunkum is being processed, fuelling speculation about Xi’s fate – flights to China  being cancelled, military-blockading of the capital, non-spotting of Xi after his return from the SCO summit, his reluctance to travel abroad, hectic political activity in Zhongnanhai, and what not. Most of all this is plain hearsay, maybe even some wishful thinking. But given that Xi has displayed inordinate ambition in claiming the Life Presidency, and has staked his future upon moves against the Big political and corporate corruption, and taking strong positions against Taiwan and India, which many China watchers consider as unprecedented overreach, such rumours got a lot of traction on the social media. That the news of a reported coup against Xi has received such credulous response is in itself quite huge, and says a lot about the market sentiments vis-à-vis continued stability in China.  

More than a day has passed since the coup-watchers became active on social media. The trend reached a crescendo yesterday, when everyone wished for a ‘farewell-Xi’ moment. Netizens had bidden goodbye to Federer yesterday morning. Xi’s could have been the next big sayonara. But with no scoops forthcoming, the interest seems to have evaporated. The news might not yet be dead, who can tell, but in the absence of titillating footage, consumers of sensationalist snippets have moved on. The House of the Dragon, the Ring of Power, Congress Presidential Elections and even the meaningless India- Australia t20 matches promise more drama for now.

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