Xi Jinping and the political challenges of China's viral outbreak

Medical professionals have done well and China can move with startling efficiency, but the latest public health emergency has revealed the country's systemic weaknesses

A patient being helped from an ambulance by medical staff at a Hubei hospital. The writer says compared with the Chinese leadership's secrecy and inaction during the Sars epidemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping has responded with speed and alacrity to
A patient being helped from an ambulance by medical staff at a Hubei hospital. The writer says compared with the Chinese leadership's secrecy and inaction during the Sars epidemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping has responded with speed and alacrity to the latest health emergency.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • It took thousands of infections and scores of deaths from a mysterious virus for China's authoritarian leader to publicly say what had become glaringly obvious to many in recent weeks: The country is facing a grave public health crisis.

After his declaration, President Xi Jinping put China on a virtual war footing to cope with the unfolding epidemic of the coronavirus. He convened an extraordinary session of the Communist Party's top political body, issuing orders for handling the crisis with the crisp, sombre stoicism of a field marshal.

Please or to continue reading the full article.

Get unlimited access to all stories at $0.99/month

  • Latest headlines and exclusive stories
  • In-depth analyses and award-winning multimedia content
  • Get access to all with our no-contract promotional package at only $0.99/month for the first 3 months*

*Terms and conditions apply.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2020, with the headline 'Xi and the political challenges of China's viral outbreak'. Subscribe