CHINA'S president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, has reappeared after a fortnight's mystery absence.
The Vice-President was photographed, appearing healthy, as he walked in to address a university in Beijing yesterday morning.
An accompanying sentence from the official news agency, Xinhua, gave no explanation for his disappearance, which has unsettled and mystified political watchers inside China and business leaders abroad.
His absence had injected fresh uncertainty ahead of the upcoming 18th Party Congress, where he is slated to replace the President, Hu Jintao, as general secretary of the Communist Party.
The information vacuum had led to colourful rumours including that he had a sore back, a mild heart attack, a mild stroke and even an assassination attempt.
Others claimed he had been ''on strike'', as faction leaders tussled over the membership of the new Politburo that will be unveiled at the Congress.
None of the speculation has been official confirmed or denied.
''Vice-President Xi Jinping arrived at China Agricultural University Saturday morning for activities marking this year's National Science Popularisation Day,'' said the Xinhua statement.
Officially, the Party has said the Congress will take place in the second half of the year although security officials say preparations are being made for it to be completed before the US presidential election, on November 6.
Mr Xi's vanishing was the latest in a series of dramatic developments which have undermined confidence in the Chinese political model.