The coronavirus continued to dominate the attention of China’s senior leadership. At the same time, however, Xi’s administration is attempting to shift focus back to delivering economic goals for the year, especially eradicating poverty. A Politburo Standing Committee meeting discussed targeted measures to keep the coronavirus epidemic in check while allowing normal economic activity to resume.
Comprehensively Enhance Law-based Prevention and Control and Law-Based Governance Capabilities, Improve the National Public Health Emergency Management System
2.29 The CCP’s theoretical journal, Qiushi, released excerpts from Xi Jinping’s speeches from the 5 February Central Commission for Comprehensive Law-based Governance meeting and the 14 February Central Commission for Comprehensively Deepening Reform meeting. In his speeches, Xi stressed the importance of pushing forward epidemic prevention and control work in accordance with the law to maintain social stability. He placed special emphasis on revising and improving laws and regulations for wildlife protection, cracking down on the illegal wildlife market, and strengthening law enforcement over illegal and violent behavior, including harming medical staff, selling counterfeit drugs, disseminating false information, and raising prices for medical and prevention supplies. In his 14 February speech, Xi emphasized that the epidemic is a “great test” (大考) for both the national governance system and governance capabilities. He highlighted the importance of improving China’s public health emergency management system. He called for improvement in strengthening China’s public health laws, disease prevention and control system, prevention and treatment measures for major epidemics, medical insurance and emergency assistance system, and emergency supplies provision and production system.
Qiushi Editorial Department: While Undergoing This Great Test, Raise Capabilities to Respond to Major Public Health Incidents
2.29 The Qiushi Editorial Department published an article on the Xi Jinping speeches above, calling them the “golden key” to “win the battle of epidemic prevention and control scientifically and in accordance with the law” and a “compass” for improving China’s disease control system and public health crisis-response mechanisms. The article noted that “some localities and departments had rule of law problems for a time,” pursuing measures that were inconsistent and frequently changed, in violation of the law, and caused popular dissatisfaction, citing Xi’s criticism of such instances and calling for better rule of law. It cited Xi as calling for revisions to existing laws or new laws to deal with biosafety and the consumption of wild animals. It reiterated Xi’s assertion that early detection and an improved grassroots public health system were vital to catch potential epidemics before they could spread and the requirements he made for improving the epidemic prevention and control system, as summarized above. It also cited Xi as calling for healthcare policies that ensure treatment takes priority over payment and ensure worries over payment do not prevent people from seeking medical help.
Firmly Win the Battle Against the Epidemic, Promote Construction of A Community of Shared Future for Mankind
3.1 Qiushi published an article by Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅), which emphasized that diplomats on the “foreign affairs battlefront” (外交战线) were implementing the spirit of Xi’s important directives and the Central Committee’s strategic plans, creating a favorable external environment for domestic epidemic control and development targets, and working with international disease-control efforts.
Wang listed Xi Jinping and the Foreign Ministry’s numerous contacts with foreign leaders, governments, and international organizations, describing the Chinese side as providing reassurance and the foreign contacts providing statements of support. Wang stressed the ministry’s role in procuring and coordinating supply donations, criticizing “excessive” policies on travel, and helping overseas Chinese citizens wishing to return home. He said the ministry was “telling a good China anti-epidemic story” (讲好中国抗疫故事) abroad by propagandizing China’s response to the virus and “bright prospects for future development” while “firing back on the incorrect conduct and untrue speech that discriminate against Chinese citizens and create panic.” Wang went on to emphasize what he identified as main achievements for China: “China has displayed that it takes on responsibility in preventing the global proliferation of disease… China has won trust by joining hands [with foreign countries] to respond to a global challenge…. China has set a new standard for the improvement of global public health governance.” Finally, Wang stressed that Chinese foreign policy will “uphold the ideal of a community of shared future for mankind (人类命运共同体),” proactively develop international and regional cooperation, deepen participation in global public health governance, and face nontraditional security challenges hand-in-hand.
Provide Rule of Law Safeguards and Services for Winning Victory in Epidemic Prevention and Control
3.1 A Qiushi article attributed to the office of the Central Commission for Comprehensive Law-Based Governance focused on Xi’s 5 February remarks at a Commission meeting. The article called for adherence to party directives on disease control work, prioritizing the life, health, and safety of the masses in accordance with the legal imperative to care for the people, the use of law in disease control and maintaining social stability, and the use of law to improve the modernization and effectiveness of governance systems and capabilities. It provided the following recommendations: 1. Improve legislation related to epidemic prevention and control; 2. Strictly implement laws and regulations for epidemic prevention and control; 3. In accordance with the law, crack down hard on all varieties of illegal offenses which harm epidemic prevention and control; 4. Strengthen rule-of-law propaganda and legal services. It also advocated using “law-based thinking and methods to make a comprehensive plan advancing epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development,” concluding with a strong emphasis on using the law to realize development targets, continue major policies, and fulfill official duties.
People’s Daily Commentator Articles Series on the Coronavirus Outbreak
2.29-3.4 People’s Daily continued its commentator series on the coronavirus outbreak.
29 February’s commentary called for Party members and cadres to demonstrate the Party’s “original aspiration” (初心) and take on its “missions” (使命) to implement the Party Central Committee’s strategic plans well. The commentary stressed that grassroots implementation is the key to ensure epidemic prevention and control and the resumption of economic activity. At the end, it stressed that the epidemic is a “great test” to the Party and all the Party members and cadres. However, the commentary assured its readers that, “under the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core,” China will “win the the people’s war, the overall battle, and the defensive battle of epidemic prevention and control” and “strive to achieve” the goals of comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society and alleviating poverty.
1 March’s commentary focused on improving China’s ability to respond to major public health incidents. The commentary reiterated that the epidemic is a “great test of the national governance system and governance capabilities” before calling for reforms and improvements in China’s measures for responding to major epidemics. It quoted Xi’s speech from a 23 February meeting on coronavirus prevention and control and social and economic development to stress the importance of improving the overall system of disease control and public health services.
2 March’s commentary urged CCP cadres to maintain confidence and courage. Quoting Xi Jinping, the commentary said that cadres at all levels and especially leading cadres must strengthen “the heart of victory” (必胜之心), “bring out the utterly fearless revolutionary spirit of prevailing over all enemies and not surrendering to any enemy,” and “display the true political character of Communists through [their] actions.” It praised Xi’s leadership, saying he “promptly put forth the general requirements of resolute confidence, collaborating toward common goals, scientific prevention and cure, and precisely implementing policy” and clearly put out firm orders for “the people’s war, the overall battle, and the defensive battle” to defeat the epidemic. However, the commentary said that the struggle was ongoing and that the epidemic would unavoidably have a “relatively major impact” on the economy, making it a difficult task to achieve both epidemic prevention and control and economic and societal development goals. In these circumstances, it is even more necessary to “strengthen the belief in winning, grit [our] teeth, and continue to not relax at all” in epidemic control; and it is more necessary “to look at national development with a comprehensive, dialectical, and long-term view.”
3 March’s commentary stressed that cadres at all levels must strengthen their sense of responsibility, saying that doing the work of doing both epidemic prevention and control and economic and societal development well is a “great battle” and a “great test.” The commentary elaborated that “putting into practice the original aspiration and mission in the great battle” and passing the “great test” is the “most important responsibility”of today’s Party members and cadres. It quoted Xi Jinping’s call for cadres to “strengthen the sense of their responsibility,” put “original aspirations into action, take the mission on [their] shoulders,” and take the initiative to play an active role. Xi further called on the party leadership at all levels to “stick to their posts, rely on top commands,” and do their duty to defend the country well, calling on grassroots party organizations and members to “play the role of the battle fort and the role of the vanguard model” to mobilize, organize, and coalesce the masses to win the battle.
4 March’s commentary was inspired by Xi Jinping’s 2 March remarks at scientific research centers in Beijing [see below], which emphasized the need for scientific and technical support in fighting the coronavirus outbreak, calling on scientific researchers to prioritize fighting the virus as their “major and urgent task.” The article referred to the “people’s war” (人民战争) on coronavirus as having two “fronts,” “fighting shoulder-to-shoulder” in coordination under the “strong leadership of the Party Central Committee”: the “front-line” of epidemic prevention and control and the second front of scientific research and supply production. The article stressed that biosafety and disease control are key to security, stability, and development, epidemic prevention and control and public health emergency response system must be made a component of national security strategy, the national public health response system must be improved, and breakthroughs in scientific research and technology must be supported.
5 March’s commentary referred to Xi Jinping’s 23 February speech on advancing epidemic prevention and control and economic and social developments, focusing on his remarks that “cadres at all levels, particularly leading cadres, must strengthen their compassion, serve as close and considerate figures for the masses, and promptly resolve all that the masses fret, worry, ponder, and hope for.” Citing the economic and social concerns listed in Xi’s speech, the article concluded that from the speech, “what we can feel is… the compassionate heart of a communist member and the feelings for the people of a people’s leader (人民领袖)!”
6 March’s commentary called for cadres to “strengthen the heart of caution (谨慎之心) and be on guard against major risks.” “This epidemic warns us that increasing awareness of suffering and guarding against risks and challenges requires consistency, and cannot permit the least bit of negligence... On the path forward, we must always remember what General Secretary Xi Jinping repeatedly emphasized: Just as we must be on high alert for ‘black swan’ incidents, we must also guard against ‘gray rhino’ incidents. As we must have the initiative to guard against risks, we also need wise moves to respond to and neutralize risks and challenges. As we must fight well a war of preventing and withstanding risks, we must also fight well a strategic active war to turn peril into safety and turn risks into opportunities.”
Xi Jinping Conducts Inspection of Scientific Research on Coronavirus Prevention and Control in Beijing
3.2 Xi Jinping visited the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and Tsinghua University Medicine School in Beijing to inspect scientific research work related to the coronavirus. Xi called for treating the pursuit of scientific breakthroughs as a “major and urgent” task and stressed the importance of technology in increasing the cure rate and lowering the mortality rate. Xi held a meeting after his visit to listen to work briefings by the Ministry of Science and Technology and National Health Commission.
Politburo Standing Committee Holds Meeting to Study Epidemic Prevention and Control, General Secretary Xi Jinping Presides
3.4 Xi Jinping presided over a Politburo Standing Committee meeting to study the current epidemic prevention and control work and economic and social stability. Xi delivered a speech during the meeting and pointed out the overall improvement of the epidemic situation across China and the accelerated resumption of economic activities.
At the same time, Xi reminded the attendees of the “complexity” of current epidemic prevention and control and economic and social developments situations. He urged for deepening international cooperation and giving full play to China’s role as a “responsible great power.” The meeting specifically pointed out that prevention and control efforts must persist in Wuhan, Hubei, and Beijing region and emphasized the importance of increasing scientific efforts to develop treatments and vaccines.
The meeting also stressed the imperative to minimize economic losses caused by the epidemic. It stressed that China must assist companies, stabilize employment, and facilitate the hiring of key groups such as college graduates and migrant workers. The adoption of various “point-to-point” transportation methods should continue to allow employees to return to work as soon as possible. Additionally, China will push for the construction of major projects including 5G and increase investments in public health services and emergency supplies production. The meeting also urged for stabilizing foreign trade and investment and facilitating foreign-invested companies in China to resume work. At the end, the meeting emphasized the importance of grasping Spring agricultural production, stabilizing prices of agricultural products, and increasing poverty alleviation efforts.
Xi Jinping Speaks at Conference on Winning the Battle against Poverty; Wang Yang Presides
3.6 In a speech at the largest conference on poverty alleviation since the 18th Party Congress, Xi Jinping emphasized that “the lifting from poverty of the entire impoverished population in rural areas by 2020 under current standards is the Party Central Committee’s solemn promise to all people and must be achieved on schedule.” Xi trumpeted the achievements of the country, under the leadership of the Party Central Committee, in reducing poverty since the 18th Party Congress as evidence of “the political advantages of the CCP leadership and China’s socialist system.” Xi also addressed the coronavirus outbreak and emphasized that “areas where the epidemic is serious can work innovatively at the same time as focusing on doing a good job of epidemic prevention and control work[, and can] overall advance [both] epidemic prevention and control and the fight against poverty.” Xi also stressed the importance of “resolutely opposing formalism (形式主义) and bureaucratism (官僚主义)” in poverty alleviation work.
After Xi spoke, Wang Yang (汪洋) praised Xi’s address, called on “all areas and departments [to] conscientiously study and understand” its points, emphasized the importance of following and fulfilling the “Party Central Committee’s strategic plans and work requirements,” and reiterated Xi’s call to “overcome the effects of the novel coronavirus epidemic” while also “insist[ing] on being goal-oriented.”
Central Committee General Office, State Council General Office Issue “Guiding Opinions on Constructing a Modern Environmental Governance System”
3.6 The general offices of the Central Committee and State Council jointly issued “Guiding Opinions on Constructing a Modern Environmental Governance System.” Amongst calls for adhering to central directives from Xi Jinping, the Central Committee, and the State Council, the opinion established the primary goal of establishing a robust environmental governance system encompassing leadership, companies, the whole population, supervisory functions, legal policy, and markets by 2025. The environmental governance system would have a “clear orientation, scientific decision-making, powerful implementation, effective incentives, widespread participation, and positive interaction.” The document also established four “basic principles” of insisting on Party leadership, insisting on multiparty management (encompassing businesses and the public as well as the government), insisting on market orientation, and insisting on legal management, and expanded on the roles of government leaders, businesses, the whole population, oversight, the market, credit, legal policy, and the strengthening of organizational leadership in achieving the goals.
Zhong Sheng: Suppressing Chinese Media Reveals US Hypocrisy
3.4 A Zhong Sheng (钟声) article in People’s Daily, which authoritatively conveys the paper’s views on foreign affairs, criticized the US State Department’s decision on to set a cap on the number of Chinese employees Chinese state media in the United States could host and its previous decision to register the five news agencies as “foreign missions.” In the article, Zhong Sheng argued that the number of US news organizations stationed in China is more than three times greater than the Chinese media in the US and that “China has never imposed restrictions on US news agencies in China and the number of their personnel.”
Zhong Sheng condemned the US action as “groundless and unreasonable” and especially antithetical to the US’ core value of “freedom of press.” It stated that, since 2018, the US had curtailed Chinese journalists’ activities in the US by declining or delaying work visas. Zhong Sheng urged the US to stop its “political suppression” on Chinese media and take more actions that are beneficial to building bilateral mutual trust and cooperation.
Zhong Sheng: Those Who Move Against the Tide Will Inevitably Fail
3.6 People’s Daily published a Zhong Sheng article to criticize the US House of Representatives for passing the “Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019,” which calls on the US government to consider increasing or reducing economic, security and diplomatic ties with other countries based on those countries’ actions to support or undermine Taiwan (a Senate version of the bill passed at the end of October 2019). The article expressed China’s “firm opposition,” saying the bill “seriously violates the One China Principle and the provisions of the three US-China Joint Communiques, and seriously violates international law and the basic norms of international relations.” It reiterated Beijing’s stance that “there is only one China in the world, the PRC government is the only legitimate representative of all of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” and stressed that this position is broadly accepted and that countries which recognize the PRC do so in accordance with their own interests. “As Kiribati discovers every day, to realize national development, one needs great brothers and friends like China. Some American politicians are trying in vain to play dirty tricks on Taiwan-related issues, move against the historical tide, and are purely overestimating their capabilities.”
Noting that the US itself had established diplomatic relations with the PRC and on the basis of the One China Principle over 40 years ago, the article accused Washington of “naked double standards” and “political bullying” for pressuring other countries to not break ties with Taiwan. “If some US politicians do not draw lessons from past embarrassing failures, they can only become a laughingstock of history.”
3.6 Zu Bin (祖斌) was appointed deputy secretary of State Power Investment Corporation’s Party group.