Chinese Whispers

Alexander F. Yuan / AP

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping attends the opening ceremony for the 28th General Assembly of International Astronomical Union (IAU) while a TV cameraman's assistant holds a light in Beijing Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

The reservations agent at the Beijing International Hotel, a 909-room behemoth on the Chinese capital's Avenue of Eternal Peace, was apologetic. "I'm sorry we don't have any rooms," she said, referring to the period from Oct. 10 to 26. "During that time, the state has reserved everything."

China is gearing up for a once-a-decade leadership shift, a power transfer of global magnitude exceeding that of the U.S. presidential race. Yet with possibly as little as a month to go, there has been no official announcement of when this landmark event will take...

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