Nobody would bat an eye if U.S. Vice President Joe Biden went missing for more than a week. We'd all assume he was on an epic ayahuasca trip and he'd be back when he got it out of his system. But when Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping goes missing, people freak out. He's presumed to be the next leader of China, slated to take over as chief of the Communist Party in just a few weeks. But he hasn't been seen in public or heard from since September 1st. *ominous music*

Speculation has grown this week as the 59-year-old Jinping mysteriously missed a series of high-profile meetings with foreign officials, including Hillary Clinton and the prime minister of Denmark. You do not stand up the prime minister of Denmark unless something has gone terribly wrong, right?

Chinese officials say nothing's amiss but refuse to give even a hint of Jinping's whereabouts. (The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman dismissed foreign journalists' queries about whether Jinping was alive with the answer, "I hope you will raise serious questions.")

Inevitably, rumors on Chinese microblogs and in the foreign media have swirled. Including:

  • Jinping is recuperating from a minor heart attack.
  • Jinping is recuperating after pulling a muscle in his back while swimming or playing soccer.
  • Jinping was critically injured in a staged car accident when political enemies tried to assassinate him.

As you can see, explanations range from the banal to the shit-your-pants-in-fear. So if anyone sees Jinping, please tell him millions of Chinese citizens and a good portion of the international community are looking for him.

[Image via Getty]