It wasn’t long before Hu Xijin stepped into the story. Hu is the editor of the Global Times, a chest-thumpingly nationalistic tabloid sometimes described as “China’s Fox News”. In recent years, he has become the most influential Chinese propagandist in the west – a constant presence on Twitter and in the international media, always on hand to defend the Communist party line, no matter the topic.
On 19 November, he tweeted to his 450,000 followers that he had confirmed through his own sources – he didn’t say who they were – that Peng was alive and well. Over the next two days, he posted videos of Peng at a restaurant and signing autographs in Beijing.