BEIJING - China is the first major economy to resume growth since the coronavirus outbreak wreaked havoc around the globe, and it is paving the way in Covid-19 control and economic recovery, said President Xi Jinping on Tuesday (Sept 8), in his most extensive remarks on the pandemic yet.
In a 70-minute speech trumpeting his nation's achievements in overcoming the epidemic, the Chinese leader told an audience of top officials, party cadres and healthcare workers that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was "the most reliable backbone of the Chinese people when a storm hits", and it was under its strong leadership that the country could emerge from the devastating crisis.
Mr Xi's speech was made against the backdrop of China maintaining a record of more than three weeks with no domestic Covid-19 cases.
His comments also come as Sino-US ties are at their worst in decades, after US President Donald Trump blamed the pandemic on China while his administration sought to demonise the CCP, calling on its allies to stand up to "this new tyranny".
On Tuesday, Mr Xi praised his country's political model instead, saying the battle against the outbreak "has once again proven the significant advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics in defending risks and challenges and improving the effectiveness of national governance".
"An important aspect of measuring the success and superiority of a country's system is to see whether it can give orders from all sides and organise all parties to cope with major risks and challenges," he added.
"My country's socialist system has extraordinary organisational and mobilisation capabilities, overall planning and coordination capabilities and implementation capabilities."
He did not address shortcomings in China's handling of the outbreak, which had caused much unhappiness in the early days, especially after the death of Dr Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor who was sanctioned for warning last December about the then mysterious disease.
Tuesday's ceremony was meant to laud those who had contributed to China's fight in the Covid-19 war.
Mr Xi conferred the Medal of the Republic, the highest national honour, to well-known respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan.
He also presented national honours to three other "national heroes": traditional Chinese medicine expert Zhang Boli, Wuhan hospital chief Zhang Dingyu, and military medical doctor Chen Wei, who led research and development into vaccines and treatment.
More than 2,000 healthcare workers, police officers, sanitation workers and volunteers were also given awards at the ceremony.
As the pandemic rages on in other parts of the world, China has gone for more than three weeks with no domestic cases. Since the outbreak started in the central city of Wuhan last December, it has recorded just over 85,000 cases and 4,634 deaths.
More than 27 million cases worldwide have been recorded so far, with nearly 900,000 deaths.
Official news agency Xinhua on Tuesday ran a glowing special report in English titled Chronicle Of Xi's Leadership In China's War Against Coronavirus, saying the Chinese leader "did not sleep well on Chinese New Year's Eve as he shouldered the heavy responsibility to fight the epidemic".
China has also helped to save tens of thousands of lives around the world, and showed its sincerity in promoting common good, said Mr Xi in his speech.
In an apparent dig at the US, the Chinese leader called for global unity and cooperation in dealing with the pandemic.
"Any practice that is selfish, that blames others, reverses right and wrong, and confuses black with white will not only cause harm to the country and its people, but also to the people of the world."
The US has come under fire for withdrawing from the World Health Organisation, the United Nations health body leading the global response to the outbreak.
Chinese state media have, after Mr Trump began calling the coronavirus the "Wuhan virus" and the "Chinese virus", routinely reported the mishandling of the pandemic and the soaring number of infections and deaths in the US.
Nearly 200,000 people have died in the US, which has recorded over six million cases.
Turning to domestic challenges, Mr Xi urged officials and party cadres to develop a long-term strategy to deal with the coronavirus, while the country powers on with its economic recovery.
"We must increase our confidence and enthusiasm, and strive to regain the lost time and make up for the losses caused by the epidemic."
China's gross domestic product grew by a stronger-than-expected 3.2 per cent in the second quarter of this year from a year earlier, making it the world's first major economy to rebound positively after the coronavirus pandemic struck.
It has also been the world's largest provider of Covid-19-related medical supplies, exporting 209,000 ventilators, 1.4 billion protective suits and 151.5 billion masks between March 15 and Sept 6, said Mr Xi.