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Chinese top leader holds unprecedented meeting on epidemic control work

(Global Times)    08:45, February 24, 2020

Photo: screengrabs

Top Chinese leaders held an unprecedented mass meeting on Sunday. Officials top down from political Bureau of CPC Central Committee to county-level Party officials and military officials of corresponding level attended the meeting via videophone.

President Xi Jinping arranged and coordinated epidemic prevention and social and economic development during the meeting.

Some 170,000 officials took part in the meeting, attendees said.

Analysts said such a massive, top-down official Party meeting was unusual, underscoring its great significance.

Xi stressed that the Chinese nation has experienced many ordeals in history, but has never been crushed. Instead, China has become more and more courageous, and has continued to grow and rise from ordeals.

The current epidemic situation is still grim and complex, and prevention and control work is at the most critical stage, he noted.

Party committees and governments at all levels must hold firm to their belief in victory, continuing working on various prevention and control tasks, Xi said.

Xi vowed to correct behaviors of formalism and bureaucratism. He also called for mobilizing the whole of society to participate in virus containment work.

The shortcomings exposed in the epidemic-response work should be taken as lessons for the future, Xi noted, and should be drawn upon to help improve the country's ability to cope with public health emergency.

The president urged pressure be turned into motivation and crisis into opportunity towards an orderly restoration of production and order of people's life.

Besides epidemic and control work, Xi remarked on social and development issues including ensuring agricultural activities and the stabilization of trade and foreign investment, as well as expanding opening up of financial service sector as part of reform and opening-up efforts. 

Great significance

This was truly a historic and remarkable event of political governance not only for China but also for the world, said Lu Keli, associate professor of the school of Marxism studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

There has never been a country or political party with the capability and motivation to hold such a massive meeting to discuss and deliver instructions from the top leader to more than 170,000 officials, Lu said.

"This showed that the CPC holds a unique advantage to mobilize a great country with 1.4 billion people to counter the massive emergency," Lu said, noting that is a giant Party with powerful leadership that also has its branches to reach every corner of the country.

"It also shows that the CPC is very clear that its top priority and duty is to protect Chinese people's health and safety," the expert said.

As of Sunday, China reported 76,936 infections in total, with 4,148 suspected cases.

Some 21 regions outside Hubei reported zero new cases on Sunday while all provinces and municipalities outside Hubei have 18 new infections in total, official data showed.

A Party secretary of a county in Central China's Hubei Province who also attended the meeting, told the Global Times Sunday night that he was highly motivated by Xi's speech that boosted his confidence in fighting the epidemic.

"President Xi understands very well the frontline situation, which is also impressive," he said. The official asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Chinese analysts noted the video channel targeted county-level government: the country's grass-roots level of governance.

The grass-roots level of government is directly linked to people's life, work and production, while the execution of central government's policies and instructions is carried out by the grass-roots governments, the analysts said.

County-level government largely manages village affairs, which is the weakest and most important section of the battle against the virus spreading, said Wang Hongwei, a professor at Renmin University's school of public administration and policy.

If both virus containment and the work of resuming economic and social development can't be handled properly in rural areas, Wang said, previous efforts to realize the goal of completely eradicating poverty by the end of this year would be wasted.

A worker pushes a trolley full of infectious medical waste in Tongji Hospital of Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak on February 18. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Importance of grass-root work

Rural areas have seen an improving situation in combating the coronavirus, Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Most villages have reported zero new infections in recent days, reflecting visible progress in COVID-19 prevention and control work, Zeng said.

The epidemic has spread mainly in urban areas, with fewer cases reported in villages and counties across the country, he said.

However, caution should be retained in prevention and control in those areas due to a lack of health awareness and medical resources, Zeng noted.

Infection clusters in some rural areas showed that villagers have not fully taken the deadly virus into account, Zeng believed.

Some had attended family reunions or had meals with their relatives and it required more efforts by local authorities to educate residents on the importance of prevention and control.

Identification and confirmation of infection cases should be conducted "as early as possible," he said, especially in rural areas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) "highly appreciates the tremendous efforts China has made to contain the epidemic," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted as saying in a Xinhua News Agency report on February 16.

Ghebreyesus noted that China protects not only its own people but also people from other countries in the world, and WHO will continue to uphold the truth, adhere to the principles, stand firmly with China and provide all possible help, the report said.

Chinese analysts said the unprecedented meeting showed China's great capacity for social mobilization, with the central government paying great attention not only to its own people but also to the international community amid the outbreak, now a global challenge. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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