30 September 2023

Misleading: This image is six years old; Zhu Rongji did clap for Xi Jinping at the 2017 party congress

A misleading tweet implied Zhu did not applaud Xi at the annual assembly in March, although Zhu has not been seen at any major party functions for more than five years. Also, the image was taken after Zhu stopped clapping in 2017.

A recent tweet claimed that former premier Zhu Rongji did not clap for President Xi Jinping with an image showing what appears to be a major congress meeting. It said this was a sign that Xi was “looked down upon by many within the party.”

The Twitter user posted the claim on March 13, the day of the grand finale of the National People’s Congress, an annual assembly of lawmakers in Beijing.

This year, Xi was legally approved by the NPC delegates to lead the country as president for the third term. The tweet has about 4,000 engagements at the time of writing.

The claim included an image that looks like a screen capture of a TV program by the state broadcaster CCTV.

It shows Zhu sitting still among other hands-clapping party elders Wu Bangguo, Zhang Gaoli, and Liu Yunshan. A man standing in the center with his back facing the camera appears to be Xi.

However, Annie Lab found the post misleading.

The screenshot actually shows the opening ceremony of the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2017. Unlike the NPC, the NCCCP is held every 5 years.

We also found the original 2017 broadcast and can confirm that Zhu clapped for Xi at least twice throughout that meeting almost six years ago.

Through reverse image search, we located the original CCTV footage on YouTube covering the opening ceremony of the 19th NCCCP at the Great Hall of the People on Oct. 18, 2017.

CCTV footage of the 19th National Congress in October 2017 that was captured and used in the tweet in question

The screenshot was captured exactly at 3:31:29 from the original footage, right after Xi had finished giving a speech.

Zhu’s name was also found on the official list of standing committee members for the meeting, which usually involves retired and incumbent party leaders overseeing the event.

Zhu Rongji claps when Xi Jinping got up to give his speech

In the 3.5-hour video, Zhu was first seen clapping on camera the moment Xi got up to give his speech, and then again when Xi finished his speech.

Zhu can be seen clapping the second time, within 30 seconds after Xi finished his speech.

The screenshot in the viral tweet was captured after Zhu stopped clapping.

Annie Lab made a video to highlight how the key moments evolved:

Zhu served as the Chinese premier from 1998 to 2003 under the late former president Jiang Zemin.

In recent years, the 94-year-old Zhu is rarely seen at major party functions. After the 2017 party congress, he seems to have taken a step back from public view.

In October 2019, for example, Zhu was absent from a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Later that month, he sent a letter to notify his absence at the annual meeting of the Tsinghua School of Economics and Management Advisory Committee, citing health concerns.

Zhu could not attend a Tsinghua University board meeting due to health problems.

As far as Annie Lab could tell, Zhu’s last public appearance was in October 2020.

A photo showing Zhu celebrating his 92nd birthday in a hospital with his wife, Lao An, circulated on Chinese social media then.

In 2021, he also missed out on the party’s centennial celebrations.

Although Zhu was elected again as a member of the Standing Committee of the Presidium for the 20th NCCCP last October, it was widely reported that he did not attend.

The NCCCP is usually held for a week during autumn time, which would see a major party leadership reshuffle, including the most powerful Politburo standing committee, the Central Committee, and the Central Military Commission.

The NPC, on the other hand, is China’s lawmaking body. Delegates meet once a year in March alongside those of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. Together, they are known as the “two sessions”.

Similar claims about Zhu not clapping have been around the internet since 2018. AFP debunked one of them last year.