Opinion | Have China and Chairman Xi controlled COVID-19?

Recently, at a celebration assembly for the 40th Anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, Chairman Xi Jin-Ping coughed heavily several times, which resulted in long interruptions in his speech. The event was a crucial part of Xi’s Southern Tour — a show of strength for his leadership — making this mishap an embarrassment.

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Cameras conveniently avoided showing his coughs, but the only leaked image (shown here) received media attention in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Hongkonger and Taiwanese press then suspected that Chairman Xi’s health was “less than ideal”, likely alluding to Xi having contracted COVID-19. 

Were he to have contracted COVID-19, however, he certainly won’t be alone in this experience. Other prominent global leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Trump of the United States, have contracted the virus and recovered from it earlier. Xi’s possible infection, however, would cast serious doubts. 

The doubts, of course, revolve around the true extent of the pandemic in Mainland China and the effectiveness of the PRC government in controlling the virus. Soon after the pandemic hit the West, the PRC announced that the pandemic had been “effectively contained” in China. State media went as far as publishing scenes in a water park in Wuhan, where social distancing was nowhere in sight. This, to the government, would be enough to signify the success that the CCP had in controlling the virus. 

Despite this, the veil began to fall long before this event. In July, an outbreak in Ürümqi — the capital of Xinjiang — resulted in a total lockdown of the city and the forced isolation of all persons returning to other parts of Mainland China. After the week-long 1 October holiday, reports of an outbreak in Qingdao has resulted in city-wide screening for its 9 million people within 5 days and put another 4.48 million tourists at risk. 

Has the PRC Government, who proclaims that “the Chinese people have long forgotten about the pandemic”, truly controlled the virus? These examples, along with Xi’s visible coughing, have certainly undermined the CCP’s confidence on this issue. Unless we can receive further news on the health of Chairman Xi and the recent outbreaks in Mainland China, one can only speculate.

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