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Wuhan’s cough shakes up Xi Jinping leadership

Posted January. 29, 2020 07:26,   

Updated January. 29, 2020 07:26


Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership is suffering a blow due to a pneumonia outbreak arose in central China. The Chinese government has just revealed its inability to manage crisis, and the economy is likely to take a hit. The New York Times reported that Xi is facing the most severe political crisis for the first time in several years.

President Xi officially announced the government’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus as late as Saturday, which is 25 days after the Wuhan authorities announced the breakout of Wuhan pneumonia on December 30 last year.

As dissatisfaction towards the government’s nonchalant attitude grew, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang went to Wuhan City, Hebei province, which is the epicenter of the virus, and visited hospitals and marts to encourage medical staff and residents. “Tell me if you are having problems. I will solve them for you,” he said to construction workers who were building a temporary isolation ward. “There is no problem!” the workers said. But local news outlets reported that the workers talked about lack of resources such as masks and medical gloves a day before his visit.

There was a serious issue in the reporting and decision-making process as well. “We are not happy with disclosure of information,” said Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang. “We, as a local government, were able to publicize information only after obtaining the authority and relevant information.

The Chinese medical system revealed vulnerabilities as well. According to The New York Times, Xiao Shibing (51), a resident in Wuhan, had a fever and difficulty in breathing about 15 days ago, but was hospitalized on Sunday because there were not enough beds in hospitals. “Hospitals kick around patients like they are a soccer ball,” said his wife Feng Xiu. Wuhan Communist Party Secretary Ma Guoqiang acknowledged that hospitals in Wuhan were extremely overcrowded in a press conference on Sunday.

If the virus reduces workdays and prolongs tourism, the Chinese government may not be able to meet the target growth rate of 6 percent. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post projected that China’s growth for the first quarter could stand at the 4 percent range quoting a U.S.-based research center.

China has extended the spring festival holiday by three days until Sunday but is likely to extend it further due to the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak. The Shanghai government ordered businesses not to resume work until February 9. Reuters reported that Tesla, General Motors and Volkswagen that are operating a joint venture or a factory in the region will suffer a loss.

zeitung@donga.com · jyr0101@donga.com