China's Xi Emerges to Greet Panetta Future leader appears healthy, despite illness rumors By Liam Carnahan, Newser Staff Posted Sep 19, 2012 7:41 AM CDT Updated Sep 19, 2012 7:50 AM CDT 4 comments Comments U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, shakes hands with China's Vice President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool) (Newser) – Xi Jinping, the man expected to become China's new leader next month, appeared in public again today, this time to meet with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, reports the Washington Post. Xi's sudden and unexplained cancellation of several high profile meetings, including one with Hillary Clinton, had fueled rampant rumors about his well being. But Xi appeared energetic, notes the AP, smiling and exchanging a handshake and a few words with Panetta in front of the cameras. The two met for more than an hour. "Frankly my impression was that he was very healthy and very engaged," Panetta said afterward.