- David Gitter, Julia Bowie, Brock Erdahl
Weekly Report 3|18 2.14.2020-2.21.2020
Qiushi belatedly published a full version of the speech Xi Jinping gave at a 3 February Politburo Standing Committee Meeting in which he detailed his own leadership in the coronavirus outbreak. The previously unpublished full version of the speech revealed that a 7 January Politburo Standing Committee meeting had discussed the outbreak, demonstrating that the outbreak was being discussed at the highest levels of government long before it was brought to the attention of the Chinese public.
Qiushi Publishes Xi Jinping Speech at Central Politburo Standing Committee Meeting on Coronavirus Outbreak
2.15 Qiushi published in full Xi Jinping’s speech at a 3 February Politburo Standing Committee meeting on coronavirus outbreak prevention and control work.
In the introduction, Xi outlined his own leading role in the CCP’s response to the outbreak. This included presiding over a 7 January Politburo Standing Committee meeting that previous reports had not mentioned included discussion of the coronavirus. Xi also stressed that “In general, the Party Central Committee’s judgement of the epidemic situation is accurate, all of its work arrangements are timely, and the measures that it has adopted are also effective. At present, the most critical issue is doing work well, carefully, and on the ground.”
The first section focused on “doing the key work of epidemic prevention and control well.” Xi used it to advocate four measures: 1. “Strengthening unified leadership over epidemic prevention and control work,” 2. “Strengthening epidemic prevention and control in key areas,” 3. “Raising admission and treatment rates and lowering infection and mortality rates,” and 4. “Increasing efforts to make breakthroughs in scientific research.”
The second section focused on “safeguarding social stability well.” Xi called for four measures to do so: 1. “Making an all-out effort to safeguard the normal economic and social order,” 2. “Safeguarding the medical care order,” 3. “Thoroughly doing social security and stability work well,” and 4. “Conscientiously safeguarding the normal transportation order.”
The third section focused on “doing propaganda and education well and public opinion guidance well.” Xi stressed that three measures would be necessary to realize these aims: 1. “To strengthen the highlighting of governance (显政), fortify confidence in overcoming the epidemic,” 2. “To seize dominance, expand positive energy online,” and 3. “To hold the initiative, effectively influence international public opinion.”
The fourth section focused on “maintaining the smooth operation of the economy.” After noting the importance of “adhering to this year’s economic and social development goals and tasks” and the need for regions that have not been severely affected by the outbreak to simultaneously “do prevention and control work well” and “make an overall plan for doing all tasks for reform, development, and stability work well,” Xi voiced his support for four measures: 1. “Actively promoting the resumption of work and production at companies,” 2. “Promoting the start of construction work on major projects,” 3. “Working hard to stabilize the consumption of residents,” and 4. “Improving national governance ability and level.”
In conclusion, Xi warned that “some regions” had fallen victim to formalism (形式主义) and bureaucratism (官僚主义) in their epidemic prevention and control work. He stressed that cadres who had fallen victim to either “must be held accountable in a timely manner [and those with] serious problems must be removed from their posts on the spot.”
People's Daily Commentator Articles on Coronavirus Outbreak
2.15-21 People’s Daily continued its Commentator Article series on the coronavirus outbreak.
15 February’s commentary was entitled “Maintaining the Smooth Operation of the Economy and Social Harmony and Stability.” The commentary stressed that “since the epidemic started, the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core has put the safety of the masses’ lives and health of their bodies in the first place” and, “at the same time, closely monitored the operating conditions of the economy, accurately grasped the epidemic’s effect on the economy, and promptly issued strategic plans.” After arguing that the economic and social impact of the epidemic would be “short-term and phased,” it stated that “what is most important for realizing this year’s economic and social development goals and tasks is carrying out all the Party Central Committee’s strategic plans on the ground.”
16 February’s commentary argued that the coronavirus outbreak was “testing our assumption [of responsibility] for turning our original aspiration and our mission into uniting the people and leading them toward resolutely defeating the epidemic” and “ability to make an overall plan to promote all tasks for economic and social development.” It added that China definitely would overcome the outbreak and meet its economic and social development goals if it “unifies thought and action under the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speeches and directives and the strategic decisions of the Party Central Committee.”
17 February’s commentary praised medical workers fighting the coronavirus outbreak, taking an optimistic perspective about the success of their work. “From the front line of hospital care to the the frontier of scientific research, from improving diagnosis and treatment plans so as to provide meticulous care to patients to the continuous rise in the treatment rate and the continuous decline in the fatality rate, good news of patients being cured and discharged continues to spread from all parts [of the country].” It also singled out for praise individual medical workers and groups who contributed to the struggle against the outbreak before calling on Party committees and governments at all levels to assist medical personnel through measures such as improving working conditions, arranging shift works reasonably, providing relevant benefits, and offering good logistical services. The commentary also called for prioritizing front-line workers in supplying protective equipment, cracking down on violent attacks on medical workers, and protecting workers’ mental health.
18 February’s commentary went on to praise community workers involved in fighting the outbreak, and charged them with a number of tasks going forward, including remaining at their posts, “strengthening the implementation of all kinds of measures for community [epidemic] prevention and control,” and “furthering the mobilization and organization of community residents.” It also called on “party committees and governments at all levels” to “care for community workers” as well as to publicize “outstanding examples and advanced achievements” from among them, among other measures. The commentary closed with a general call for all concerned to “continue the struggle” and “fight heroically” in their outbreak control work.
19 February’s commentary continued the series praising front-line epidemic control personnel with a piece on party members, praising their courage in “responding to the Party Central Committee’s call:” “Wherever the task is dangerous [and the burden is] heavy, there’s a Party organization staunchly and vigorously at work, and party members serving as pioneers and models.” The article pointed out that temporary party branches had been formed by medical teams sent from other regions and the military to Hubei, quoted several party members from across the country on their sense of duty, and extolled party members involved in various kinds of epidemic control work. The article expressed that the CCP differed from other political parties as it instilled courage, leadership, and a willingness to sacrifice for the people in all its members.
20 February’s commentary focused on the aid sent to Hubei and Wuhan, arguing that the ability to “concentrate resources to accomplish large undertakings is one of the prominent advantages” of China’s system of governance. The commentary argued China has demonstrated this strength in the past through disaster relief and anti-poverty aid, and aid efforts related to the coronavirus outbreak must be strengthened to “further display the advantage of our national system.” The article emphasized that the urgent needs of Hubei and Wuhan were of priority, and that aid to each province and region must be better coordinated according to local needs, the instructions of the central leading group on prevention and control of the novel coronavirus epidemic, and coordination of the State Council’s joint prevention and control mechanism, specifically calling out disobedience to central instructions. It further called for a thorough implementation of the aid-providing system, urging stronger coordination among those providing aid and those areas receiving it.
21 February’s commentary emphasized the importance of legal aspects of epidemic control and prevention work. Citing several recently-passed Party and government opinions pertaining to the outbreak, the commentary called on officials to “accurately apply the law, severely punish all kinds of illegal crimes that interfere with epidemic prevention and control work in accordance with the law,” “decisively punish the battery and injury of medical personnel and actions that disturb the orderly provision of medical treatment and critical care,” and crack down on such activities as price gouging, speculation, starting rumors, and the sale of inferior medical equipment. Amongst other injunctions, including one to strengthen the public’s rule-of-law consciousness, the article also issued a call for officials to “seek truth from facts” (实事求是) in combating the epidemic, including by not “escalat[ing] control measures without permission.” The article closed by describing the outbreak as “a great test of our country’s governance system and capabilities” from which China should seek to derive lessons.
Zhong Sheng: Facing the Epidemic, What Did the US Do?
2.17 People’s Daily used its Zhong Sheng (钟声) column, which authoritatively transmits the opinions of the People’s Daily on matters of international affairs, to accuse the US of failing to follow through on its “bold talk” (豪言) about aiding China in its efforts to stem the coronavirus outbreak. As an example, it cited a pledge of $100 million that the US later described as an “upper limit” and whose details remained unclear. It also criticized the White House’s announcement that it would reduce its financial contribution to the WHO by half in 2021, questioning the US’s argument that this would be made up for in direct aid. The article went on to criticize the US and “some American politicians” for “clearly violating WHO recommendations [by] taking the lead in announcing a travel ban” and spreading conspiracy theories about the virus. It concluded with the observation that the US’ “desire to participate in international cooperation is clearly decreasing,” stating that “in today’s [era of] every country being deeply interconnected, blowing out another person’s lamp will burn one’s own beard (吹灭别人的灯，会烧掉自己的胡子). Facing challenges, strengthening cooperation, and jointly responding is the right path.”
Xi Jinping Makes Important Directives on Protecting and Caring for Medical Care Workers
2.19 Xi Jinping gave important directives for the protection and care of medical personnel to ensure their health and continuous work in the battle against the epidemic. Xi stressed that medical workers are the “backbone” (中坚力量) of the battle against the epidemic and that the work on releasing medical workers’ stress, ensuring their livelihood, and providing leaves and encouragement must be implemented well, especially in Hubei and Wuhan.
Xi Jinping Presides Politburo Meeting: Study Novel Coronavirus Epidemic Prevention and Control Work, Implement an Overall Plan to Do Epidemic Prevention and Control and Economic and Social Development Work Well
2.21 Xi Jinping presided over a Politburo meeting convened to study the prevention and control work on coronavirus epidemic, as well as to coordinate economic and social development in the midst of the crisis. The Politburo pointed out that Xi and the Party Central Committee have made epidemic prevention and control the top priority, with Xi personally directing and putting forward the overall requirements of firm confidence, uniting in collaboration, scientific prevention and cure, and accurate policy implementation. The Politburo said the Party Central Committee has drawn up policy guidelines for epidemic prevention and control, ensuring the work is carried forward forcefully and orderly and firmly containing the spread of the epidemic; it has mobilized the whole country’s power to help Hubei and Wuhan; and it has maintained normal economic and social order and stability. It said China’s anti-epidemic work has received widespread praise from the international community and displayed China’s image as a responsible great power.
The Politburo emphasized that under the resolute leadership of the Party Central Committee with Xi Jinping as its core, through the unified struggle of the whole party, whole military, whole nation and people of all ethnicities, the spread of the epidemic has been tentatively contained, prevention and containment work has achieved phased results, new cases of diagnosed and suspected illness nationwide have overall assumed a decreasing trend, the number of cured and discharged people is increasing relatively quickly, and new cases outside of Hubei in particular have substantially decreased. However, the situation in Hubei and Wuhan is still severe and complex, and party committees and governments at all levels must not relent in the anti-epidemic struggle.
The Politburo also stressed the need for differentiated prevention and control strategies according to conditions in different regions, including increased treatment efforts, support for medical personnel, and provision of medical supplies and daily necessities, prioritizing the needs of key areas.
It further said that despite obvious economic effects of the coronavirus, China’s economic resilience and capacity is great enough that long-term positive trends will not change, and the country should still strive to achieve its economic development goals, comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society, achieve the poverty alleviation goals, and complete the 13th Five Year Plan.
Issues of poverty alleviation, environmental protection, fiscal and monetary policy, investment, medical and technological R&D, and international cooperation were all also discussed in the context of the epidemic.
2.17 Xu Ping (徐平), the head of the Ministry of Emergency Management’s (MEM) Forest Firefighting Bureau and deputy secretary of the bureau’s Party committee, was appointed a member of the MEM’s Party leadership group.
2.17 Qiong Se (琼色), the head of the Ministry of Emergency Management’s (MEM) Fire and Rescue Bureau and deputy secretary of the bureau’s Party committee, was appointed a member of the MEM’s Party leadership group.
2.21 Li Zhong (李忠) was appointed vice minister of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
2.21 Zhao Zeliang (赵泽良) was appointed deputy head of the Cyberspace Administration of China.