Pass notes No 3,246: back injury

Wednesday, September 12th 2012. | Internet News

Age: Roughly half a billion years, assuming it’s as old as the spine.

Appearance: Painful.

Something to do with the Paralympics? Guess again.

Then it must be poor old Man United. No sooner have they paid £12m for their new midfielder than Shinji Kagawa strains a muscle, leaving it unclear whether he’ll be able to play against Wigan and Galatasaray. It couldn’t happen to a nicer team … That neither. We are in fact talking about Asian politics.

Well you might be … You know Xi Jinping, the Communist bigwig who is tipped to replace Hu Jintao as Chinese president?

Of course not. He hasn’t been seen in public for a week and a half, during which time he has failed to meet not just Hillary Clinton, but the Singaporean and Danish prime ministers.

So? I haven’t met them either. Yes, but they weren’t visiting the country where you are vice-president.

Fair point. So what has Xi been doing? Either recovering from or succumbing to some misfortune or other. After rumours that the 59-year-old had had a heart attack or been in a car crash, perhaps with fatal consequences, sources close to the country’s leadership finally claimed Xi had pulled a muscle while swimming. But there has been no other official comment, and when a reporter asked if Xi was still alive, a foreign ministry spokesman insisted this wasn’t a “serious question”.

I didn’t realise swimming was so risky. Nor do the many doctors who recommend it to patients getting over surgery. The fact that water supports the body is generally seen as a point in its favour.

Perhaps the Chinese type is dangerously hard? That must be it. In any event, rather than stifle the rumours with hard facts, the authorities have chosen to block users of Sina Weibo, the local equivalent of Twitter, from searching for Xi’s name or the phrase “back injury”.

Imagine this happening in Britain, with the whole country wondering what had happened to George Osborne or Nick Clegg. What conclusions could we draw? Conclusions? Let’s just savour the thought.

Do say: “He has made quite a splash.”

Don’t say: “He has sunk without trace.”

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