Coronavirus: Chinese President Xi Jinping and top officials donate their own cash to virus fight

A photo taken on Feb 10, 2020, shows Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting local residents at the Anhuali Community in Beijing. PHOTO: XINHUA VIA REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese President Xi Jinping and six of his top officials have donated money from their own pockets to fight the coronavirus, as the government scrambles to mobilise public support that has wavered over its response to the outbreak.

The personal donations were reported by the official Xinhua news agency, which said the officials sat on the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, the ruling Communist Party's top echelon. Xinhua didn't say how much they donated.

The party called days ago for all members to make "voluntary" donations to support prevention and control efforts, with the authorities facing the dual challenge of both halting the virus' spread and stabilising economic growth that's been further threatened by the weeks-long closure of factories, offices and schools across China.

"Party committees and governments at all levels should make arrangements on both virus prevention and economic development… to win the war against the virus and meet the poverty reduction targets," Mr Xi told a Politburo Standing Committee meeting on Wednesday, according to Xinhua.

It echoes similar calls that followed a devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province, when party members were encouraged to pay "special dues" to recovery efforts.

More than 45 million members paid a total of 9.7 billion yuan (S$1.93 billion), Xinhua reported.

The virus marks Mr Xi's biggest crisis since he came to power, as Chinese citizens begin questioning his government's response to the disease and the party's overall competence.

It has so far infected more than 78,000 people in China since emerging in central industrial powerhouse Hubei province in December. Countries around the world are increasingly reporting new cases of their own.

China's government has spent more than 100 billion yuan so far to fight the virus, the state-run Economic Daily reported on Tuesday (Feb 27), citing the Ministry of Finance.

The influx comes as the country faces increased pressure on government finances.

Even before the outbreak, more than half its provinces had expected to see a slower expansion of revenue in 2020, and that could stretch the authorities' efforts to make fiscal policy more supportive of the economy post-outbreak.

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