How China Coup Rumors Spread Ahead of Xi Jinping's Major Political Event

Twitter was awash with wishful speculation about Xi Jinping's downfall over the weekend, before the Chinese Communist Party said that its leader was still very much in line to extend his rule in three weeks' time.

The outlandish rumors of a coup in Beijing and a military takeover of China's leadership reflect what typically is a highly sensitive moment in Chinese politics.

After the CCP holds its twice-a-decade national congress on October 16, party members will decide the make-up of its top leadership.

Many expect Xi, 69, to break with the precedent set by his predecessors, retain the party's top political and military posts, and become the first leader since Mao Zedong to stay in office for more than two 5-year terms.

The party congress traditionally is a major political event surrounded by a certain degree of unpredictability about China's future leaders.

The run-up to it isn't too dissimilar to that of a Democratic or Republican primary in the United States—a contest between rival factions over the best candidate to represent the party's past, present and future.

Since taking power in 2012, however, Xi has overseen several rounds of purges of China's political and military leaders as part of a larger anti-graft campaign that has also swept up many of his rivals.