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People's Leader Xi visits Wuhan; Propaganda struggle



Bill Bishop at Sinocism



The rumors were true, Xi Jinping did finally visit Wuhan. He did not quite declare victory in the “people’s war” on the virus but his trip is clearly a sign he believes victory is within reach.

Wang Huning accompanied him.

Xi started his visit at a command center next to the Huoshenshan hospital, where he talked over video link with medical workers and patients in the hospital. Xi upgraded his face mask from the simple surgical mask he has worn in Beijing to a better 3M N95 one.

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Victory in the people’s war over the virus may be the "wartime experience" Xi has lacked to fully elevate him past Deng to at least equal standing with Mao Zedong. I will guess it will be the achievement that finally gets him the full "People's Leader" mantle.

Xinhua today posted a short video - 人民领袖 指挥决战-新华网-The People's Leader Commanding the decisive battle".

The worse the outbreak gets outside China the better Xi looks domestically, in spite of the initial missteps. Things are starting to look up for Xi, China, and the Chinese economy after an awful start to the year of the Rat.

Thanks for reading.


1. Xi visits Wuhan

Xi Focus: "Turning the tide" -- Xi leads anti-virus war toward victory - Xinhua

The inspection to Wuhan, Hubei Province, took the president to a hospital treating severely ill COVID-19 patients and a residential community. He visited patients, medics, community residents and workers, police officers, military personnel, officials and volunteers who have been fighting the novel coronavirus...

Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, also attended the inspection.

In Huoshenshan Hospital, the first leg of his inspection, Xi lauded medical workers as "the most beautiful angels" and "messengers of light and hope."...

Xi talked with patients in the hospital through a video link, and expressed his wishes for their quick recovery.

"All prevention and control measures taken by the CPC Central Committee against the virus are to prevent more people from being infected and save more patients' lives," Xi said.

Meeting medic representatives in the hospital, Xi said the spread of the virus has been basically curbed in Hubei and Wuhan, and attributed the achievement to efforts of the whole Party, the whole country and the whole society.

"But you are the biggest heroes," Xi told the medics...

Xi demanded more understanding and tolerance for people in Hubei and Wuhan if some vent their feelings for long time under self-quarantine, as well as efforts to ensure the supply of their life necessities.

习近平在湖北省考察新冠肺炎疫情防控工作 看望慰问奋战在一线的医务工作者解放军指战员社区工作者公安干警基层干部下沉干部志愿者和居民群众时强调 毫不放松抓紧抓实抓细各项防控工作

The report on Xi's visit to Wuhan took up the top 20 minutes of the Tuesday CCTV Evening News

习近平指出,我们党在内忧外患中诞生,在磨难挫折中成长,在攻坚克难中壮大。敢于斗争、敢于胜利,是中国共产党人鲜明的政治品格,也是我们的政治优势。各级党组织和广大党员、干部要不忘初心、牢记使命,扛起责任、经受考验,在这场大考中磨砺责任担当之勇、科学防控之智、统筹兼顾之谋、组织实施之能,做到守土有责、守土有方。要坚决反对形式主义、官僚主义,让基层干部把更多精力投入到疫情防控第一线。要激励广大党员、干部在危难时刻挺身而出、英勇奋斗,在大战中践行初心使命,在大考中交出合格答卷。

Xi pointed out that the party was born out of internal and external troubles, grew up through hardships and setbacks, and gained strength through overcoming difficulties. The courage to fight and to win is the distinct political character of the Chinese communists and our political advantage. Party organizations at all levels and the vast number of party members and cadres should not forget their original intention, keep their mission firmly in mind, shoulder their responsibilities, and stand the test. They should sharpen their courage to assume responsibilities, their wisdom in scientific prevention and control, their ability to make overall plans, and their ability to organize and carry out the test. We must resolutely oppose formalism and bureaucracy, and let grassroots officials devote more energy to the frontline of epidemic prevention and control. We should encourage party members and cadres to stand up and fight bravely in times of crisis, carry out their original mission in the great war, and give qualified answers in the final examination.

Xi Focus: Moment of truth: Xi leads war against COVID-19 - Xinhua

The man of the hour was President Xi Jinping, commander-in-chief of China's war against COVID-19, who flew into Wuhan Tuesday to inspect the epidemic prevention and control work on the ground...

The COVID-19 outbreak is the hardest major public health emergency to contain since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, he said.

Xi declared a "people's war" to fight this invisible enemy by mobilizing the force of the whole country...

"Xi is the backbone of this battle," said Liu Jingbei, a professor at the China Executive Leadership Academy in Pudong, Shanghai. "His leadership is crucial for the country to ultimately beat the epidemic."

As coronavirus goes global, China’s Xi Jinping asserts victory on first visit to Wuhan since outbreak - The Washington Post

Xi’s first stop Tuesday was Huoshenshan Hospital, which was built in 10 days. State media said he visited patients, but television footage later showed a mask-clad Xi, surrounded by military and party officials, talking to a patient by video...

“You should build your confidence, we should together build our confidence, and together we will win this war,” Xi told the man, who was in bed wearing striped pajamas, with two health-care workers in head-to-toe protective gear at his side. “Wuhan must win, Hubei must win, and the whole of China must win,” Xi said.

He appeared to be speaking from the Wuhan Workers’ Sanatorium, a facility next to the pop-up hospital.

China’s Xi Visits Wuhan, City at Center of Coronavirus Epidemic - WSJ

“Xi Jinping is there to pick peaches” and enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor, said Zhang Lifan, an independent historian in Beijing. “Xi’s hope is to turn an initial setback into victory.”..

In a sign that authorities are relaxing controls, Qianjiang, a city of about one million people roughly 100 miles west of Wuhan, said Tuesday that it would begin to lift the lockdown and restore normal industrial activity in the coming days.

Comment: Qianjiang is the city whose Party Secretary decided after hearing about the virus during the two meetings in Wuhan in January to immediately quarantine all the patients in his city who had symptoms, and so the epidemic never really exploded in his city. This 2.18 Caixin article has more details.

Chinese President Xi Jinping salutes Wuhan under shadow of coronavirus pandemic threat | South China Morning Post

Having come under heavy criticism from overseas initially, Beijing is now portraying its containment efforts as a heroic fight showcasing the Chinese people’s spirit as well as the strength of the country’s unique political system..

By making the symbolic visit, Xi sent a message to the world that the extreme measures undertaken by his authoritarian government were “highly effective”, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University and a government adviser.

“The message to the domestic audience is that the rampant epidemic has now been brought under control and this is possible [only] under the leadership of Xi,” he said. “The Communist Party wants to highlight the decisive role Xi has played in this.”

Xi’s visit to epicenter Wuhan heralds new phase in fight against epidemic: analysts - Global Times

Xi personally commands the people's war against the epidemic. He has been paying constant attention to the epidemic prevention and control work and made oral or written instructions every day...

Lu Keli, an associate professor at the school of Marxism studies in the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times that Xi's visit to Wuhan at this stage showed that China has achieved a phased victory in the current juncture that can help effectively stabilize and control the epidemic situation...

From January 7 to March 2, he convened six meetings of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and one meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, urging authorities at every level to put forth resolute efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

He also held a meeting aimed at comprehensively deepening the reform, one meeting on advancing law-based governance, one teleconference with 170,000 officials, reflecting his personal involvement in the response to the epidemic.

Such an extensive level of engagement was hailed as "a very rare leadership" amid the outbreak by Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus..


2. The economy

China’s Inflation Slows as Coronavirus Locks Down Economy - Bloomberg

Core consumer prices rose 1% in February from a year ago, the slowest pace since June 2010, and factory prices returned to deflation, with the producer price index registering a 0.4% decline on year after rising 0.1% in January. However food costs continued to soar due to rising pork prices, leaving overall consumer inflation at 5.2%, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday...

“In the short term, it means that the People’s Bank of China might not ease as much as the Fed and other central banks,” according to Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Group Ltd in Hong Kong. “CPI inflation will ease in the coming months on the slowing economy and oil price crash, so PPI deflation will be the major concern later this year. As such, we expect more stimulus to come later this year.”

Virus Going Global Means China’s Factories Will Get Hit Again - Bloomberg

Manufacturing firms across China told Bloomberg News that they are close to being able to resume full production as domestic infections slow to a trickle, but are now facing canceled orders and fewer opportunities to gain new customers as the virus grips elsewhere.

“We are actually more worried about the development of the epidemic in Europe and the U.S., which will affect their domestic consumption,” said Mark Ma, owner of Shenzhen-based Seabay International Freight Forwarding Ltd. The company relies on those regions for 80% of its business, with about a third of the goods it handles being sold on Amazon. “China’s manufacturers have no big problems taking orders and producing, the main problem now is how the epidemic is contained overseas.”

Coronavirus: China’s risky plan to revive the economy | Financial Times $$

“The party propaganda machinery has unwittingly admitted that Xi was responsible for the fiasco,” says Steve Tsang, head of the China Institute at Soas in London. “The changes Xi has made to the operation of the party-state have not strengthened its capacity to act in order to pre-empt a crisis. [Instead]it has made it easier for a crisis to emerge as it all depends on Xi understanding the situation properly and making the right call at critical moments.”

An adviser to senior officials in Beijing agrees. “This virus crisis was really 70 per cent human error [attributable to] the leadership,” he says.

Some economic projections make sober reading for China’s leadership. Bert Hofman, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, predicts that “first-quarter growth year on year may well be negative, between -2.0 and -6.5 [per cent]”.

Alibaba’s Chinese Delivery Arm is Back at Pre-Outbreak Levels - Bloomberg

Cainiao, of which Alibaba owns more than 60%, is again at full strength after a few weeks during which the epidemic disrupted transport and held up shipments. Meal delivery unit Ele.me and grocery chain Freshippo are also back at full strength and operating at “full capabilities” at present, an Alibaba spokeswoman said.

China to modify environmental supervision of firms to boost post-coronavirus recovery - Reuters

“The environmental supervision should be adjusted in accordance with practical needs and social economic situation,” said Cao Liping, director of Ecological and Environmental Enforcement bureau at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), at a press briefing on Tuesday…

But Cao said that changes to supervision did not mean relaxing environmental rules or supervision.

China’s Busiest Coal Railway Posts Fourth Straight Monthly Freight Decline - Caixin

A transportation analyst told Caixin that dip is due to slumping supply and demand, not transportation capacity. The analyst said the coronavirus hasn’t had a big direct impact on the railway’s operations, as few workers are needed to transport goods...

Many of the coal mines in northern China are yet to resume work even after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, and those that have started operating again are often running under full capacity due to labor shortages, as mandatory 14-day quarantines are keeping many workers off-site.

Coronavirus: Apple China stores all open apart from four - CNBC

Three stores in Tianjin, a major city in northwest China, and a retail location in Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai, remain closed. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the reason for keeping those stores shut when contacted by CNBC.

Coronavirus forces Europe to confront China dependency – POLITICO

"There will be a 'before' and an 'after' the coronavirus [outbreak] in global economics," French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told radio station France Inter on Monday. "We have to decrease our dependence on a couple of large powers, in particular China, for the supply of certain products" and "strengthen our sovereignty in strategic value chains" like cars, aerospace and medicines.

Online Travel Agents Scramble as Epidemic Clouds Tourism- PingWest

Ms. Yan, who works at a brick-and-mortar office operated by OTA giant Trip.com (previously known as Ctrip) in China's Jiangsu Province, recently had to pivot to selling pots, snacks, fruits, and imported skincare products on WeChat to make ends meet. She told PingWest that her income consists of a meager base salary, and relies heavily on commissions, which relies on orders both online and offline. Now she have to find other means to make money so as the mortgages and car loans on her shoulders don't break her lifestyle apart.

Online Used Car Platforms in Crisis as Virus Drives Off Business - Caixin

While the industry has been slowly coming back to life in recent weeks, in step with China’s bigger return-to-work push, business is still far from normal levels. The China Automobile Dealers Association reported that about two-thirds of used car dealers had reopened as of March 2, with trading volume about 55.5% of ordinary levels. While still weak, those figures represented a marked 20% improvement from the week before.

Chinese firms get back to work — but with stricter rules | Financial Times $$

Wen Tianwu, of Beijing’s urban management department, last week called the workplace an “important arena for epidemic prevention”. His bureau — better known for hassling and detaining street hawkers — has started office building checks to make sure companies are following the rules, he said.

The guidelines for many workplaces include not having more than 50 per cent of staff in the office at one time, while maintaining at least one metre of space between employees.

Coronavirus: China trumpets message of stability amid world turmoil as Beijing senses Covid-19 victory | South China Morning Post

“China is indeed a hero for now” after the crash in the United States, wrote Hao Hong, the head of research for Bocom International, the Hong Kong-based investment bank of China’s fifth-largest lender.

Hong added that China’s stock market had become “a beacon in the darkness” as the country’s quarantine measures, including restricting the movement of hundreds of millions people to control the spread of the virus, had been largely successful. At the same time, Hong noted that China’s market has already suffered a plunge as it was the first country to suffer from the coronavirus outbreak.


3. Propaganda struggle

Let the West deceive itself in virus fight - Global Times

China's response to coronavirus has won support from more than 170 state leaders and the leaders of more than 40 international and regional organizations. Yet some Western countries are still living in their own imaginary world. They portray China's effective efforts as the embodiment of autocracy, and Chinese media's objective reporting is seen as an attempt to "reframe the narrative." Yet when it comes to their country's own inaction and failures, they become silent.

Let the West deceive itself. Let these countries dodge their faults and pass the buck. No matter how they distort the facts and attempt to control public opinion, the truth remains unchanged: China has played a vital leading role in fighting the epidemic, demonstrated its influence as a responsible major power, and established a positive international image.

President Xi's inspection instills more optimism in society - Global Times

Besides optimism brought about by the easing situation of the epidemic, the people have enhanced their trust in the government's ability to control the situation and eliminate the major menace of the public. Despite the initial mishandling of Wuhan, government measures have made vigorous efforts to turn the tide. Now many of the countries have fallen victim to the virus. All these have reshaped the Chinese people's understanding of their country's capability. Generally, the collective confidence of the Chinese people is strengthening. Many countries repeated the mistake that Wuhan has made, while they cannot achieve what China has done.

Commentary: Institutional strength: China's key to beating novel coronavirus - Xinhua

Just as the country tackled the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak and the 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, the institutional strength will continue playing a key role in enabling China to secure a decisive victory against COVID-19. While China protects the health of its 1.4 billion people, it contributes greatly to the global fight as well. Those who have used the virus to make racist remarks or smear China's system and tremendous efforts are immoral and despicable.

Nation sets example in fighting virus - China Daily

The outbreak has revealed inadequacies in global public health governance and highlighted the urgent need to buttress the system, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a signed article published on March 1 by Qiushi Journal, flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

"China is ready to work with the international community to address these challenges," Wang said.

"We support the core role of the United Nations and the WHO in responding to health emergencies and in improving the global public health governance system," he said.

He said that public health issues should be moved up on the international agenda, and major international health projects should be implemented, and a health Silk Road taken up.

China on the Defensive to Safeguard the Economy and Xi Jinping - Bloomberg

Ma Hui, a minister in the Chinese embassy in London, said diplomats were working overtime to field questions about the virus and rebut what they believe to be misleading reports. ..

Recent days have also revealed another element of the strategy: seeding doubt about China’s role in the initial spread of the virus. Last week, Ministry of Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian effectively gave the government’s public blessing to online rumors suggesting that the virus may have originated elsewhere: “Its origin is not necessarily in China,” he said.

China changes virus narrative in bid to salvage soft power -AFR

The Chinese embassy in Canberra emailed me last week with a message for foreign journalists reporting on the coronavirus outbreak.

It pointed to comments from Beijing's Foreign Ministry about "highly irresponsible" references by some media to the "China virus". It suggested journalists are politicising the coronavirus by suggesting it originated in China "without any supporting facts".

Comment: These efforts from PRC officials is going to lead to a backlash to start calling the virus not COVID-19 but names that cause all sorts of racist issues.

China rebuts Pompeo's denigration of COVID-19 fight, says it bought the world time - CGTN

Apart from blaming the Chinese government, Pompeo also ignored the official name of the virus, calling it the "Wuhan virus." Geng condemned the Secretary of State's remarks as irresponsible, saying his "plot" to use COVID-19 to denigrate China will not succeed.

As of Monday, the disease has affected more than 30 American states and the District of Columbia, with at least 554 confirmed cases and 22 deaths.

Meanwhile, American Fox News viewers at least know it as the “Chinese” virus. This Carlson segment is worth watching to get a sense of the mood in some of the US media

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