Welcome back to Axios World, where tonight we've got the 1,584 words (6 minutes) you need to catch up on the global response to the coronavirus.
Heads up: Axios China is back! The first weekly edition from the brilliant Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian lands on Wednesday.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Xi Jinping is often described as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao, but he's not the face of Beijing's response to what could ultimately be the biggest test of his tenure thus far.
Why it matters: Xi has vowed that China will slay the "devil virus" that has spread from Wuhan and sown fear around the world. But the Communist Party seems intent to steer criticism of its slow initial response — and responsibility should its current steps prove inadequate — away from Xi.
Flashback: In late December, as concern about a new SARS-like outbreak started to spread among medical professionals in Wuhan, local police reprimanded eight doctors for discussing it among themselves in leaked WeChat messages.
“It might have been a fortunate thing if the public had believed the ‘rumors’ then and started to wear masks and carry out sanitization measures, and avoid the wild animal market."— Supreme People’s Court
The centralization of power under Xi can paralyze local and regional officials, Wu Qiang, a former lecturer at Beijing's Tsinghua University, told the FT:
Information is also even more tightly policed under Xi, but some savvy users recently circumvented the censors by posting online reviews of the HBO series "Chernobyl."
China has been praised, including by the World Health Organization, for a response that experts say is far better than when SARS struck China in 2003.
Between the lines: One might have expected a strong public response from Xi to the current crisis, if only to justify the cult of personality around him.
The bottom line: As the coronavirus crisis plays out, the strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese model will both be on display — even if Xi is not.
Waiting and worrying at the airport in Manila. Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images
China reacted furiously today to a U.S. decision to deny entry to all foreign nationals who had been to China in the past two weeks, denouncing it as a violation of WHO advice that would only spread fear.
The global picture: Australia is also barring foreigners who recently visited China, and it has evacuated citizens from Wuhan to remote Christmas Island.
Russia, which has been carefully tightening its bond with China, took the politically delicate step of closing most of its shared border to people (but not goods).
Hong Kong's position is perhaps most sensitive of all.
But some Southeast Asian countries have seemed to focus their public responses on not provoking China, the NY Times reports.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The coronavirus has the potential to be as damaging to the global economy as the U.S.-China trade war, Axios' Dion Rabouin and Joann Muller report.
Why it matters: China is the world's top trading nation and largest commodity buyer, and the No. 1 trading partner for many of the world's biggest economies, including Germany and Japan, both of which are suffering already from anemic growth.
What to watch: "If the WHO declares it as a pandemic, that too will have a depressing effect on the global economy because countries will put in certain limitations on commerce, on trade, and that will obviously slow down growth," says Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group.
Worth noting: There were grave concerns about the economic impact of SARS in 2003. Now, China's economy is 6x larger.
Context: "Zika spread through the Americas for 16 months before anyone even knew it was there."
Love in the time of coronavirus, on the Hong Kong metro. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images
The origins of this outbreak are uncertain.
But it did not spread via "bat soup," James Palmer notes in Foreign Policy, debunking one of many false claims spreading online.
The FT has cataloged a number of worrying incidents:
"They don't trust me? Why not?" Photo: Eliot Blondet/AFP via Getty Images)
Just 20% of Americans have confidence in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to "do the right thing regarding world affairs," per a new Pew survey.
Worth noting: Hatice Cengiz, the fiance of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, will attend the State of the Union tomorrow night as a guest of Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).
A moment of reflection during Brazil's Festa de Yemanja. Photo: Bruna Prado/Getty Images
"You know what it means for Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan to be put in the same category? Eritrea is the 'North Korea of Africa,' Myanmar is a pariah state & Kyrgyzstan is in the middle of nowhere. The US Government does not rate us, at all."— Onye Nkuzi, a Lagos-based IT consultant reacting to Trump's travel ban expansion