The disclosure of his speech indicates top leaders knew about the outbreak’s potential severity at least two weeks before such dangers were made known to the public. It was not until late January that officials said the virus can spread between humans and public alarm began to rise.
Zhang Lifan, a commentator in Beijing, said it’s not clear why the speech was published now. One message could be that local authorities should take responsibility for failing to take effective measures after Xi gave instructions in early January. Alternatively, it may mean that Xi, as the top leader, is willing to take responsibility because he was aware of the situation, Zhang said.
Trust in the government’s approach to outbreaks remains fractured after the SARS epidemic of 2002 and 2003, which was covered up for months.
Authorities in Hubei and Wuhan faced public fury over their initial handling of the epidemic. In apparent response, the Communist Party’s top officials in Hubei and Wuhan were dismissed and replaced last week.
Hubei announced Sunday that all vehicle traffic will be banned across the province, expanding on an existing ban in Wuhan, in another step to try to stop the spread of the virus. Exceptions will be made for vehicles involved in epidemic prevention and transporting daily necessities.
Weird, but Tom Friedman had assured me that China’s authoritarian regime allowed them to get things done.