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  • David Gitter, Julia Bowie, Brock Erdahl

Weekly Report 3|23 3.21.2020-3.27.2020


The Politburo met to discuss the global economy, simultaneously advancing epidemic prevention and control work and renewing economic and social development work, as well as committing to the battle against poverty until the end of the year.

A People’s Daily commentary under the highly authoritative pen name Ren Zhongping (任仲平), standing for “important People’s Daily commentary” (人民日报的重要评论), reflected on the Chinese nation’s responses to the COVID-19 epidemic.


Senior Leaders

Xi Jinping Presides Over Politburo Meeting

3.27 The CCP Politburo held a meeting to analyze the domestic and global economy, study and implement further plans to simultaneously advance epidemic prevention and control and economic and social development work, and deliberate over a report on the effects and review of the 2019 battle against poverty, as well as a comprehensive report reviewing central anti-poverty inspection. The meeting, which followed a 25 March meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee, said that through the hard work of the whole country and the masses, China’s epidemic prevention and control has achieved interim results and the restoration of economic and social order has accelerated. However, the epidemic outside China’s borders has been spreading more quickly, severely impacting the growth of the world economy and trade. This has “brought new challenges” to China’s economic development and especially the resumption of its supply chain.

The meeting stressed that it was necessary to continue to consolidate and expand the results of epidemic prevention and control, including medical treatment to raise the recovery rate and lower the mortality rate, medical observation of discharged patients, and gradual resumption of normal production and order. It also pointed out the need to strengthen care for Chinese citizens overseas, calling for providing consular protection, guidance and supplies through overseas embassies and consulates; strengthening quarantining at ports and optimizing entry procedures; and cooperating with the WHO and relevant countries. It further called for continuing to move toward economic and social development goals, using various macroeconomic, fiscal and monetary policies to restore production, expand consumption, and minimize losses caused by the epidemic.

Finally, the meeting looked back on poverty alleviation work during 2019 and determined that the annual tasks were fully completed and that the work achieved decisive results. Recognizing that future poverty alleviation work will be difficult, even more so due to the coronavirus pandemic, it called on all regions and departments to strengthen their sense of responsibility, mission, and urgency to ensure that a moderately prosperous society is comprehensively built on schedule.

Xi Jinping Conducts Phone Call with US President Trump

3.27 Xinhua released a summary of President Xi Jinping’s 27 March phone call with US President Trump. According to the report, Xi began by emphasizing that China’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak had always been “public, transparent, and responsible” and that China had shared information with and supported the anti-virus efforts of the rest of the world, including the US. Pledging that such behavior would continue, Xi then pointed out the international nature of the threat and stressed the importance of international efforts like the G-20 leaders’ meeting the day before. After expressing China’s willingness to strengthen anti-virus and economic cooperation with the US, Xi then detailed China’s anti-virus efforts, expressed his and the Chinese people’s concern for the US in its fight against the outbreak, noted Chinese efforts to aid the US side thus far, and offered China’s help for the US in its “current difficult situation.” Finally, after requesting that the US protect Chinese citizens’ “safety and health,” Xi pointed out that China-US cooperation was “the only correct choice” at this “important juncture” and expressed hope that the US would “take substantive action to improve China-US relations.”


Propaganda Work

People’s Daily Commentator Series on the Coronavirus Outbreak

3.20-3.27 People’s Daily continued its weeks-long commentator articles about the coronavirus epidemic.

20 March’s commentary discussed Xi Jinping’s 18 March remarks to the Politburo Standing Committee. The article stated that Xi “fully affirmed the results our nation’s epidemic prevention and control work has obtained [but] emphasized looking clear-headedly at the complexity and severity of the epidemic situation both domestically and abroad,” cautioning that epidemic control could not slacken and risk reversing positive trends. It specifically highlighted potential issues with people leaving Hubei as restrictions on mobility loosen, as well as the risk of imported cases from abroad. The article also called for greater Chinese support for and cooperation with foreign countries struggling with the virus. It concluded with a declaration of confidence in a “double victory” of defeating the epidemic and establishing a moderately prosperous society.

21 March’s commentary called for “speeding up the establishment of a social and economic operation order that is compatible with epidemic prevention and control.” The article expressed concerns about COVID-19’s impact on the global economy but optimism about China’s economic fundamentals and long-term economic prospects. It called for a return to normal production and living in low-risk provinces and a careful resumption of production according to local conditions in other areas.

22 March’s commentary linked “conscientiously ensuring the basic livelihood of the masses facing straitened circumstances” with the battle against the COVID-19 epidemic. The article called on Party committees and governments at all levels to pay attention to the impact of the epidemic on people in need, to furnish aid and welfare fully and on time, to prevent the epidemic from causing people to relapse into poverty, and to take care of stranded migrant workers and those who cannot provide for themselves, among other injunctions.

23 March’s commentary elaborated on Xi Jinping’s 23 February call to “use a comprehensive, dialectical, and long-term perspective to view China’s development.” After noting that “the downward pressure on China’s economy continues to increase due to the influence of various factors at home and abroad,” the article stressed that “the effect of the epidemic will be short-term, external, and controllable.” It argued that “a comprehensive view” requires “grasping the whole and the key points,” that “a dialectical view” requires “using the perspective of development to consider problems and grasping opportunities amidst crisis,” and that “a long-term view” requires “having a strategic way of thinking and observing major trends.” Its conclusion called for “strengthening confidence, turning pressure into momentum, being good at transforming crisis into opportunity, and fully releasing the enormous potential and strong driving forces of China’s development” in order to “prevail over all sorts of difficulties and challenges.”

26 March’s commentary announced that on 8 April, travel restrictions on Wuhan will be lifted, and normal traffic will resume in an orderly manner. The article cautioned that despite the lifting of restrictions and the consolidation of successful results in fighting the epidemic, the risk of new cases and outbreaks remains, particularly from imported cases. It cautioned that people must “remain clear-headed, [and] cannot at all lower [their] guard.” The article urged people not to be lax in disease control measures out of a false sense of security or eagerness to resume the economy, and not to fall into “battle-weariness” (厌战情绪) as the international spread of COVID-19 gives rise risks of imported cases. In addition to reiterating the usual policy facets of epidemic prevention and control, the article called on disease control programs to pursue international cooperation and “provide support to the international community’s fight against the epidemic to the best of [China’s] ability.”

27 March’s commentary noted that the country was rapidly returning to work and resuming production but cautioned that such activity must be accompanied by epidemic prevention and control. With the country facing the risk of a return of the epidemic, especially through importation from abroad, “We must comprehensively and scientifically study the variations between the domestic and international epidemic and fully recognize the complexity and seriousness of the epidemic situation. We certainly cannot lower our guard.” In addition to calling for antivirus efforts to take place simultaneously with economic work, the article called on all localities to monitor closely for a return of the epidemic and “immediately implement precise controls on crowds and places that can potentially disseminate [the virus] and earnestly accomplish early discovery, reporting, isolation, and treatment” if cases are discovered. The article also invoked the phrase “seeking truth from facts” (实事求是) to encourage transparency. Finally, the article noted that returning to work and production would impact “the accomplishment of goals and tasks for realizing decisive victories in the comprehensive establishment of a moderately prosperous society and the tough battle of poverty alleviation,” among other objectives.

Ren Zhongping: Advance Regardless of Wind and Rain—Written in the Time of The Chinese People’s Battle Against the Novel Coronavirus Epidemic People’s Daily

3.26 A People’s Daily commentary under the highly authoritative pen name Ren Zhongping (任仲平), standing for “important People’s Daily commentary” (人民日报的重要评论), reflected on the Chinese nation’s responses to the COVID-19 epidemic.

The article specifically praised Xi Jinping’s leadership, listing his key meetings and inspection tours, as well as several of his “powerful and resonating” remarks on the epidemic. The commentary stated that “only in China, only under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party” could communications, utilities, supplies, and social order continue throughout such a massive epidemic. The piece glowingly described China’s international cooperation as demonstrative of its benevolent and responsible behavior and praised the people of Wuhan and Hubei, describing their quarantine as a “deeply moving sacrifice respectfully offered.”

In several sections filled with emotional rhetoric, specific examples, and martial metaphors, the commentary expressed gratitude for medical staff, community cadres, everyday workers and volunteers in Wuhan, the deceased, and party members in Wuhan. Such systemic and large-scale mobilization was attributed to the strength of China’s model of governance. The commentary emphasized Xi had demanded the reform of any “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the government that were exposed during this epidemic. It expressed optimism about China’s economic stability and achieving development goals.

In conclusion, the piece reflected on future policy goals inspired by the lessons of the epidemic, such as modernization of government after the weaknesses of “some leading cadres” were exposed, increased risk awareness, “the harmonious symbiosis of mankind and nature,” and the promotion of a “community of shared future for mankind” in light of the pandemic’s global impact.


Party Discipline

Violations of the Eight Point Guidelines in February 2020

3.24 The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and National Supervisory Commission (NSC) reported that in February 2020, 8,737 cases were investigated, 13,463 individuals were punished, and 6,013 individuals across China received Party and governmental disciplinary punishments for violations of the eight-point guidelines. None of these violations occurred at the provincial-rank level. The most common violations were granting subsidies and benefits, sending and receiving gifts and money, and using public funds for banquets.


Organization Work

3.25 Li Yi (李毅) was appointed vice president of the Central Party School.

3.27 Yan Zhichan (严植婵) was appointed deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Macau Special Administrative Region.

3.27 Sun Huaixin (孙怀新) was appointed head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and National Supervision Commission’s discipline inspection and supervision group at the National Development and Reform Commission.

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