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The Times of India
The Times of India

China cranks up propaganda defending Xi Jinping as Covid cases explode

BEIJING: With Covid-19 running rampant after President Xi Jinping’s government swiftly abandoned its zero-tolerance policy, the Communist Party is still insisting its strategy will “stand the test of history.”

In a front-page commentary on Thursday totaling over 11,000 Chinese characters, the People’s Daily newspaper — the party’s main mouthpiece — called on citizens to “unswervingly” trust the nation’s leaders. It added that Xi’s Covid Zero policy “won precious time” in controlling the outbreak, saying that China is now “not afraid of the continuous mutation of the virus.”

“After three years of efforts, we have the conditions, mechanisms, systems, teams and medicine to lay the foundation for an all-round victory in the fight against the epidemic,” the commentary said.

The lengthy missive shows the difficulty the government is facing in explaining an abrupt shift in policy after years of touting its approach as better than the rest of the world. The U-turn came shortly after Xi secured a third term in October, with the economy suffering from repeated lockdowns of major cities and spontaneous protests popping up calling for a change in direction.

Here are some highlights:

Xi’s policies were right

As expected, the commentary reinforced the notion that Xi’s policies have been correct all along, and China’s decision to tolerate higher cases is more due to the available data on Omicron rather than economic pressures and social unrest.

The article said Xi’s flagship Covid Zero policy protected people during “the fiercest stage of the virus,” while new easing policies align with a weaker variant.

“With the weakening of the pathogenicity of Omicron variant, widespread vaccination, and the accumulation of experience in prevention and control, we have formulated 20 optimization measures and 10 new optimization measures in a timely manner to minimize the impact of the epidemic on socioeconomic development.”

Life is getting back to normal

The article painted scenes in stark contrast with the reality in China. The accelerated spread of the virus has seen pharmacies sell out of medicines, factories locking in workers and stockpiling medicine, as well as disrupted government work due to staffing shortages.

The commentary described machines roaring in factories, people coming and going on the streets, vehicles shuttling back and forth on highways and railways, and abundant supply in supermarkets and shopping malls.

“The land is surging with vitality,” the article said.

China’s system is superior

China had long defended its Covid Zero policy as morally superior to the US and Europe, saying its policies led to the deaths of many elderly people. That line from Beijing came in response to accusations by former US President Donald Trump and others that the virus originated in China.

Still, even as the virus starts to impact seniors in China, who have lower vaccination rates than in other Asian countries, Beijing is repeating the line that its system is the best. One study by researchers in Hong Kong said more than 2 million people in China may die from Covid-19 as the government rapidly abandons pandemic curbs.

China’s actions have shown a “China solution” to dealing with the epidemic and “demonstrated the superiority of the country’s socialist system to the greatest extent,” the commentary said.

The leadership is united

The commentary lauded the party’s ability to organize and mobilize society to respond to the epidemic, saying it showed “the significant advantages of the country’s socialist system.”

“All over the country, an emergency command mechanism led by the main person in charge of the party and government has been established, and a top-down emergency decision-making command system with unified command, front-line guidance and overall coordination has been established,” read the commentary.

That contrasted with remarks this week from Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to France, who blamed local authorities for failing to correctly implement central government policies, spawning social unrest.

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