As the world watches China deal with the spreading outbreak of coronavirus, we’ll take a step back and ask what China’s response says about how China is faring globally.
John Pomfret, contributing opinion writer for the Washington Post. Former Washington Post bureau chief in Beijing and author of “The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present.” (@JEPomfret)
From The Reading List
CNN: “This Chinese doctor tried to save lives, but was silenced. Now he has coronavirus” — “On December 30, Li Wenliang dropped a bombshell in his medical school alumni group on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat: seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with a SARS-like illness and quarantined in his hospital.
“Li explained that, according to a test he had seen, the illness was a coronavirus — a large family of viruses that includes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
“Memories of SARS run deep in China, where a pandemic in 2003 killed hundreds following a government cover up. ‘I only wanted to remind my university classmates to be careful,’ he said.”
The Washington Post: “For Xi Jinping, better ‘red’ than ‘expert.’ But the coronavirus is challenging that.” — “The coronavirus epidemic in China is far more than a disease; it is the most serious challenge to the rule of President Xi Jinping and the direction he has taken China since he assumed power in 2012. The stakes are extraordinarily high. It is far too early to predict the beginning of the end of Xi’s political career, but the epidemic clearly is shaking China and Xi’s way of governance to its core.
“Since the Chinese revolution of 1949, the central tension inside the country’s Communist Party has been between ‘reds’ and ‘experts,’ between ideology and know-how. This tension has real world significance. During the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957, as many as 650,000 Chinese intellectuals (or ‘experts’) were sent to China’s gulags because they were not sufficiently ‘red.’
“The Great Leap Forward marked the climax of red economic policies and resulted in death by starvation of some 30 million Chinese. The Cultural Revolution that took place between 1966 and 1976 saw millions more educated Chinese murdered by gangs loyal to party chairman Mao Zedong, the chief red of them all.”
The New York Times: “Coronavirus Live Updates: Xi Urges Tougher Response to the Crisis” — “China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has signaled a more assertive strategy for dealing with the coronavirus epidemic after days of seeming to retreat from center stage.
“His convening of a second special Communist Party meeting on Monday was only his second public appearance since the government in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak, took the extraordinary step of locking down the city on Jan. 23. That order was almost certainly approved at the highest levels in Beijing.
“Mr. Xi sent Premier Li Keqiang to Wuhan more than a week ago, when the death toll stood at 106. By Tuesday, the toll in China was more than 420 deaths.
“The Chinese government has reported 20,438 confirmed cases — roughly 15,000 more than during the SARS outbreak, according to the World Health Organization.”
NBC News: “Coronavirus updates: The latest news on the outbreak and the global response” — “A senior official with the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Tuesday about misinformation spread about the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“’It is important to tackle misinformation as soon as possible,’ Dr Sylvie Briand, director of pandemic and epidemic diseases department at WHO, said in a briefing with reporters. ‘When there is an unknown, people try to fill in the void.’
“One example of misinformation described by Briand is an erroneous belief that there is ‘a cloud of virus’ and it’s possible to get sick by simply breathing in air.
“’This is not the situation,’ she said, adding that coronavirus spreads primarily through contact with an infected person and is transmitted through respiratory droplets.”
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.