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President Xi fears a coup in Beijing 

Xi Jinping in Beijing on September 30. Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

One reason Xi Jinping won’t leave China to come to Glasgow for Cop26 – or go anywhere else – is that he’s terrified of a coup, says Peter Hartcher in The Sydney Morning Herald. After nine years as president, he projects “an air of serene imperial command”, but he hasn’t dared to leave the country for nearly two years and sees enemies everywhere. The head of China’s security apparatus, Fu Zhenghua, who oversaw the punishment of nearly 180,000 security officials this year, has himself just been purged. And two “semi-official” Chinese news websites published credible reports last month about a foiled plot against Xi when he was visiting the city of Nanjing – the reports disappeared within a day. The coup was supposedly financed by a billionaire, Lai Xiaomin, who was executed in January.  

Xi’s control of the People’s Liberation Army is also “less than iron-clad”. He has changed the senior officer in charge of western China four times in the past year. Is he right to be paranoid? It’s hard to say, but he won’t have forgotten the failed army coup against Chairman Mao in 1971. He’s certainly doing everything he can to ensure the that Chinese Communist Party rubber-stamps his third term as leader at its congress next October. Xi once said of party discipline: “To forge iron, you need a strong hammer.” He’s wielding the hammer harder than ever. 

Why it matters The Chinese leader’s almost certain absence from Glasgow next week will make Cop26 “a flop”, says Roger Boyes in The Times. China runs on coal and Xi Jinping has no intention of turning up “to sign coal’s death warrant”. If he did, his nightmare might come true: lights going out, factories grinding to a halt and protesting miners denouncing him in the streets.