Official media continued to rally the Chinese people around efforts to control the coronavirus epidemic while projecting confidence in the Party’s ability to handle the situation. Notably, this year’s Two Sessions was postponed indefinitely.
With the fight against the coronavirus still ongoing, Xi Jinping issues directives about hitting spring agricultural targets in order to ensure the stability of the food supply (see “other” section).
People’s Daily Commentator Articles on Coronavirus Outbreak
2.22-28 People’s Daily continued its Commentator Article series on the coronavirus outbreak.
22 February’s commentary was entitled “Resolutely Implement Precise Prevention and Control Differentiated By Region and Level.” The article noted that “currently, the epidemic, development, and [epidemic] prevention and control situations are different in every province and its counties… Only if [we] accurately analyze and judge the epidemic situation and accurately formulate and implement prevention and control measures can [we] do epidemic prevention and control work well, minimize the influence of the epidemic on the economy and society, and maintain stable economic functions and social harmony.” The article again referred to epidemic prevention and control work as a “test of the overall plans and organizational and implementation capabilities of party committees, governments, and leading cadres at all levels.” It also expressed confidence that China would “win the people’s war (人民战争) of epidemic prevention and control” and “strive to achieve this year’s economic and social development goals and texts.”
23 February’s commentary was entitled “Promote the Resumption of Work Production in an Orderly Way.” Citing the 21 February Politburo meeting that urged the simultaneous pursuit of anti-coronavirus work and economic and social development, the article argued that the economic impact of the epidemic, while “obvious,” was only temporary. In overseeing the return to work and production, all regions and departments must “resolutely be on guard for [the resulting] epidemic spreading hazards” and work units should “strengthen health monitoring and individual protections for workers.” The article urged “party committees and governments at all levels” to “create favorable conditions” for the orderly return to work and production, including by “opening ‘main arteries’” for transportation and organizing the return of workers from other regions. It also called for aiding key industries, small and medium-sized enterprises, and stable production of good and agricultural produce. The article also expressed optimism for meeting the year’s development targets.
25 February’s commentary responded to a 23 February work meeting led by Xi, which focused on realizing annual economic targets while continuing to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Entitled “Resolutely Unite Thinking and Action Under the Strategic Plans of the Party Central Committee,” the article referred to the coronavirus outbreak as a “great test” (大考) while declaring that “the spread of the epidemic has been initially curbed” and that “the Party Central Committee’s judgement on the epidemic situation is accurate.” It described the central measures as “timely” and “effective” before praising the unity, hard work, dutifulness, and courage of those involved in responding to the outbreak. The article reminded readers that the situation was still “grave and complex” and required continued efforts. Finally, it emphasized that the economic “shock” of the epidemic was short-term and could be controlled, concluding with statements of confidence in the resilience of the Chinese people and correctness of Party leaders’ decisions.
26 February’s commentary struck a note of caution, titled “[As Long As] Epidemic Prevention and Control Has Not Obtained Full Victory, We Absolutely Cannot Lightly Call It A Success.” Citing remarks made by Xi Jinping on 23 February [see summary below], the commentary warned against “paralyzed ideology, war-weariness, wishful thinking, and relaxed attitudes,” calling for continued vigilance. The commentary urged to continue preventing the spread of the virus as most regions have gradually returned to work. The article stressed the importance of anti-disease work in Wuhan and Hubei, adding that prevention and control was also vital for Beijing, as “the capital’s safety and stability directly concerns the overall situation of the Party and the country’s work.” After briefly reminding readers of various tasks regarding fighting the epidemic, the article concluded that this “people’s war” would be won as long as the Party Central Committee’s strategic plans are implemented thoroughly on the ground.
27 February’s commentary focused on how to make overall plans for epidemic prevention and control work with economic and social development, the theme of Xi Jinping’s 23 February speech at a work meeting. It called for a return to work in areas where the disease situation was not severe, while emphasizing that policies must suit local conditions and not “recklessly relax prevention and control” work and “obstruct the restoration of economic and social order.” The commentary stressed that the economic effects of the epidemic would be temporary and that implementing Party Central Committee’s strategic plans is key to push forward epidemic and development work.
28 February’s commentary called for Party officials to closely implement the CCP Central Committee’s directives with regard to the coronavirus epidemic, saying that “whether [China] can fight well and win this people’s war of epidemic prevention and control…[and] realize the mission of this year’s economic and societal development goals is an important test of party organizations and party members and cadres at every level.” Quoting Xi Jinping’s speech at a meeting on coronavirus epidemic prevention and control and economic and social development work, it said “[we] must strengthen the Party’s leadership” in carrying out this work; “require that Party organizations at all levels earnestly carry out their leadership responsibility”; “concretely, meticulously and thoroughly implement the Party Central Committee’s strategic plans, and make the Party flag wave high on the front line of the struggle for epidemic prevention and control.” It said that since the epidemic started, the Party promptly drew up policy guidelines to ensure that epidemic prevention and control is carried out vigorously and orderly. “Practice proved that the Party Central Committee’s judgments on the epidemic situation are correct, the implementation of each work item has been timely, and the measures adopted have been forceful and effective. Our country’s response to this major public health crisis… once again manifests the outstanding advantages of CCP leadership and the system of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”
Xi Jinping: Speech from Meeting on the Overall Plan for Advancing Epidemic Prevention and Control & Economic and Social Development Work
2.23 In a meeting on combining epidemic control with economic goals, Xi Jinping delivered a speech urging “Party committees and governments at all levels to strengthen [their] belief in winning, grit [their] teeth (咬紧牙关), and continue to not relax at all” with their work on epidemic prevention and control. At the same time, he stressed the importance of “strengthening the measures related to the ‘six stabilities’ (六稳)” and “striving to realize this year’s economic and social development goals and tasks.”
Xi put forth seven requirements for future epidemic prevention and control work: 1. Preventing the spread of the virus from the Wuhan and Hubei regions and focusing on treating the patients there; 2. Safeguarding Beijing by curbing the spread of the coronavirus within the capital; 3. Caring for medical care workers with relevant policies and coordinating the supply and demand of necessities; 4. Accelerating scientific research on the virus and cure; 5. Expanding international and regional cooperation; 6. Improving the effectiveness of work on guiding public opinion through explaining the Party Central Committee’s important decisions and promoting “positive energy” (正能量); and 7. Maintaining social stability.
Later, Xi made eight demands for the resumption of work: 1. Resuming work based on regions’ epidemic situation; 2. Using macro policy to support small and medium-sized enterprises and local governments; 3. Strengthening employment measures; 4. Continuing the work on poverty alleviation; 5. Expanding domestic demands and promoting the transformation of traditional industries; 6. Ensuring agricultural production in spring; 7. Safeguarding people’s basic livelihood; and 8. Stabilizing foreign trade and investment.
Politburo Standing Committee Meets, Analyzes the Situation of Novel Coronavirus Outbreak, Studies Key Points of Near-Term Prevention and Control Work, General Secretary Xi Jinping Presiding
2.26 In a Politburo Standing Committee Meeting, all members announced personal donations to disease control efforts. Xi Jinping delivered a speech emphasizing that despite positive trends in fighting the coronavirus outbreak and accelerated resumption of economic and social development, the epidemic situation in Hubei and Wuhan remain “complex and grim.” He said economic and social development must be grasped firmly at the same time that disease control efforts are strengthened. The meeting demanded a continued concentration of resources on disease control efforts in Wuhan and Hubei province and stressed that preventive and protective measures must be strengthened for “special places and key communities” that were particularly vulnerable, such as elder homes and childcare institutions, and that the push to return to work and production must be “precise and steady,” the return should be convenient for enterprises, without “unreasonable checks,” and any cases of infection should be handled with “scientific precision.” Finally, the meeting suggested that China’s international cooperation in fighting the epidemic exhibited China’s role as a “responsible great power” and that China should continue close cooperation with the WHO, communicate, coordinate, and share its experience with relevant countries, and reinforce external propaganda and public diplomacy.
Zhao Leji’s Work Report at Fourth Plenary Session of 19th CCDI
2.24 The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) released the text of CCDI Secretary Zhao Leji’s (赵乐际) 13 January work report to the commission’s fourth plenary session. Citing a speech Xi Jinping had given earlier that day on using the achievements of the strict governance of the Party to push for the modernization of the nation’s governance system and capabilities, Zhao called on those in attendance to study and follow Xi’s thinking in carrying out discipline inspection work.
Zhao’s report included two sections: a summary of work completed in 2019 and an outline of major work to be carried out in 2020. In reviewing the past year, Zhao highlighted eight main themes: 1. “Persisting in using Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era to arm our minds” and using the “two defends” (两个维护) to implement the Central Committee’s policies; 2. “Holding fast to the basic political position of taking the people as the core and deepening [work to] bring under control corruption and work style problems among the masses;” 3. Implementing systemic improvements called for by Xi Jinping and investigating and punishing the “four forms” (四风) (formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance); 4. “Deepening political inspection and reform and further exhibiting the use of inspections as a sharp sword;” 5. Strengthening supervision and increasing accountability; 6. Reforming the inspection system to make it more standardized and more in line with the rule of law; 7. Progressing towards a comprehensive victory over corruption; and 8. Strengthening ideology, practical experience, and specialized training for anti-corruption cadres.
For 2020, Zhao also emphasized eight main points: 1. Adhering to the original aspiration and mission and “unceasingly strengthening consciousness of and firmness in the ‘two defends,’” 2. Winning the battle against poverty and resolving issues reported by the masses; 3. Deepening reform of the disciplinary inspection and supervision system; 4. Strengthening supervisory functions; 5. Expanding the effectiveness of “work style construction;” 6. Improving inspections and integrating them with other supervisions; 7. Winning an “overwhelming victory” against corruption; and 8. Building a high-quality corps of cadres.
Xi Jinping Gives Important Directives on National Spring Agricultural Production Work
2.25 Xi Jinping issued important directives on spring agricultural production, highlighting the importance of food safety and the prioritization of the “three rural issues” (三农). Xi demanded that Party Committees at all levels advance work on the “three rural issues,” “the comprehensive building of a moderately prosperous society,” and poverty alleviation. According to Xi, China must ensure “a good harvest for summer crops” and strengthen its support policies for foodstuff production. In addition, Xi emphasized the importance of modernizing agricultural infrastructure such as building well-facilitated farmland, improving farmland irrigation and drainage system, and promoting agricultural mechanization.
Premier Li Keqiang (李克强) also made comments on the topic and emphasized the need to ensure the transportation of fresh agricultural products, to speed up the expansion of the pork supply, and to increase policy support to farmers. On 25 February, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua (胡春华) attended a national teleconference on spring’s agricultural production work and gave a speech. Hu reiterated the importance of pushing for spring’s agricultural production while preventing and controlling the epidemic in rural areas.
Zhong Sheng: Do Not Allow Racists to Talk Nonsense
2.26 People’s Daily put out a page-three Zhong Sheng (钟声) article in defense of its expulsion of three Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporters from China over a recent opinion piece that “slandered” China's efforts in the fight against the epidemic. It described the article’s headline, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” as racist and condemned the WSJ as “despicable.”
Zhong Sheng pointed out that people with conscience from all over the international community had condemned the articles. More than 115,000 people signed a White House petition as of 25 February - asking the newspaper to formally apologize. In addition, 53 WSJ employees addressed a letter to management requesting a title amendment and an apology to those offended.
Zhong Sheng blasted the newspaper for not only ignoring these requests but also publishing another article to justify its action. It quoted UC Berkeley professor Catherine Ceniza Choy and argued that the type of article will exacerbate racism towards Asians. The article called for uniting human beings regardless of race and nationality in the face of an epidemic and praised China for not only safeguarding the health of its people, but also effectively preventing the global spread of the virus.
International Liaison Work
2.27 International Department Head Song Tao (宋涛) met with Socialist Party of Serbia President and Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić.
2.28 Li Fanrong (李凡荣) was appointed general manager of China National Petroleum Corporation.
2.28 Zhang Tianfeng (张天峰) was appointed deputy head of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.