Feb 15, 2020 - World

NYT: Xi Jinping ordered action on coronavirus earlier than previously reported

Xi Jinping vists a community health center in Beijing on Feb. 10. Photo: Ju Peng/Xinhua via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he first gave orders to tackle the coronavirus crisis on Jan. 7 in a speech released by state media on Saturday, the New York Times reports. He did not disclose details of those orders in the speech.

Why it matters: The newly published address, which Xi gave on Feb. 3, confirms "for the first time that he was aware of the virus while officials at its epicenter were openly downplaying its dangers," per the Times.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: The decision to release this information indicates that one of Xi's priorities now is assuring the Chinese public that China's top leaders — not local officials — have long been firmly at the helm of the government's response.

  • Popular anger at local officials for early attempts to suppress knowledge of the coronavirus has surged nationally, and led to widespread distrust of government action to combat the epidemic.
  • By taking personal responsibility for the coronavirus response, even from its early days, Xi is risking further backlash if the epidemic worsens.

Catch up quick: The Chinese government "delayed a concerted public health offensive" for the coronavirus by silencing doctors for raising red flags in the first seven weeks after symptoms appeared in December, the Times previously reported.

  • Officials in Wuhan — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — were "giving open assurances that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission" in early January, per the Times.
  • Li Wenliang, the doctor who sounded the alarm on the coronavirus outbreak, was mourned last week in vigils in Hong Kong and Wuhan that seemed to "shake loose pent-up anger and frustration" at the government's handling of the crisis, per the Times' Li Yuan.

Go deeper: The coronavirus threat to China's grand plans

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Beijing's coronavirus propaganda blitz goes global

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As China begins to get its coronavirus outbreak under control, authorities are going on the offensive to rewrite the narrative that the global epidemic is Beijing's fault.

Why it matters: We're getting a glimpse of how China's formidable propaganda apparatus can obscure the truth and change narratives abroad, just as it can at home. The stakes are high — for the world and China's standing in it.

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Robert O'Brien: China's coronavirus cover-up "cost the world" two months

Robert O'Brien with Trump. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

National security adviser Robert O’Brien claimed Wednesday that an initial cover-up of the coronavirus in China “cost the world community two months” and exacerbated the global outbreak.

Why it matters: In the face of a global crisis, the world’s two most powerful countries are pointing fingers at one another.

Go deeperArrowMar 11, 2020 - World

Exclusive: Pompeo says new China media restrictions "long overdue"

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The State Department announced Tuesday that it has designated five Chinese state media outlets as "foreign missions," meaning that they will be treated as arms of the Chinese government.

Driving the news: In his first public statement on the new designation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells Axios that the five outlets are "clearly controlled by the [Chinese Communist Party], and we are simply recognizing that fact by taking this action.”

Go deeperArrowFeb 18, 2020 - World