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Epidemic Prevention and Control Is a Major Test of China's Governance System and Capacity

By Tong Xin Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2020-07-15

Since China is in a crucial stage of development, we don't have the option of choosing between carrying out epidemic prevention and control and resuming work and production; we have to balance both simultaneously. This represents a serious test of our governance standards and capacity. General Secretary Xi insightfully pointed out that the economy and society form a dynamic circular system that cannot be halted for a long period of time. He and the Central Committee have focused on principal challenges and the main aspects of these challenges, analyzed specific issues on a case-by-case basis, and made overall plans while implementing category-specific measures. They have requested that hard-hit areas focus their efforts on epidemic prevention and control, and that other areas resume work and production in an orderly manner and on a region- and level-specific basis while ensuring effective prevention and control. Efforts to restart the economy have fully demonstrated the strengths of China's socialist economic system. Within a short period of time, medical supply producers in all five major categories were running at or above 100% capacity as a result of efforts to restart work and production and the creation of additional capacity through conversion or expansion. Work resumption rates of large-scale industrial enterprises have gradually increased across the country, surpassing 90% in Zhejiang and 70% in Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian, Liaoning, Guangdong, and Jiangxi by February 23. Civil aviation, ports, and water transportation have operated normally, and we have maintained ample supplies of electricity, natural gas, and refined oil. The epidemic will inevitably have considerable socioeconomic impacts, but these impacts are short-term in nature and generally controllable. The World Bank has also stated that the steps taken by the Chinese government could help mitigate the effect of the epidemic on China's economic growth. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also said: "We are confident in the resilience of China's economy." On February 23, the Central Committee held a meeting for coordinating COVID-19 prevention and control with economic and social development, and General Secretary Xi provided in-depth analysis of the situation and further identified key tasks and major measures, showing once again that the Chinese people will not be intimidated by problems and difficulties, and that China has ample material resources for coping with the crisis.

After the novel coronavirus struck, critical efforts were started to scientifically understand the virus and the epidemic, and to find effective drugs as well as proper treatment, prevention, and control methods. At this juncture, China's strong scientific research community reacted quickly and worked efficiently to guide epidemic prevention and control work forward on a scientific track. After rapidly sequencing the entire genome of the virus, researchers worked fast to develop diagnostic kits, and began to screen drugs on a large scale and develop vaccines. Statistics show that they have screened more than 70,000 drugs or compounds, selected 5,000 potentially effective drug candidates, and chosen about 100 drugs to conduct in vitro testing, with some showing good clinical efficacy. Vaccine R&D has been advanced simultaneously via multiple technological approaches, and some vaccines have entered the animal testing stage, offering encouragement that there is hope on the horizon. The above examples are all integral parts of China's economic capacity. With great overall strength, we are confident that we can defeat the epidemic.

This is a major test of China's cultural governance system and capacity.

To overcome the epidemic, we need not only material strength, but also inner strength. For us to take unified action against the epidemic, we must first unite our thinking. The Chinese people are closely united in terms of ideals, values, and morals, while China's socialist system and national governance system demonstrate formidable cohesiveness on the philosophical level. These ideological and cultural achievements have greatly inspired and united hundreds of millions of Chinese people, and provided powerful inner momentum for driving concerted efforts against the epidemic.

The CPC members, medical workers, military personnel, local officials, and members of the public who are fighting against the virus on various fronts and in various sectors fully embody the spirit of contemporary China with their bravery. In the face of this terrifying virus, they answered the nation's call without hesitation, putting themselves in harm's way as they worked day and night to build impregnable defenses. Through their sweat and toil, they have shown us the meaning of responsibility and dedication, demonstrated exceptional benevolence by tending to the sick and saving lives, and exemplified the contemporary spirit of confidently taking on challenges by working together. They have never flinched in moments of peril, but instead held to their respective posts, and done their utmost to make the best contribution they can, demonstrating extraordinary virtue through ordinary work. Many journalists have also participated in the fight against the epidemic in unique ways. They have promptly conveyed the latest directives and arrangements of General Secretary Xi and the Central Committee, reported on the moving stories of heroes on the front lines, helped the public understand the state of the epidemic and learn about prevention and control methods, and used words, images, and sound to arouse positivity and exalt the true, the good, and the beautiful, thus boosting public confidence, cheering hearts, and uniting ideas.

Ordinary citizens have taken the initiative in the fight against the epidemic. Love of the motherland is the foundation of the Chinese nation's cohesiveness. The people have overcome various irritations and inconveniences in their own lives for the good of the nation, strictly abiding by relevant regulations and maintaining order as they have actively cooperated with prevention and control measures. Believing the nation to be an extension of their family, countless Chinese people have willingly made personal sacrifices for the greater good at critical moments, reflecting their solid disposition and sense of mission. United in this manner, the Chinese people can overcome any obstacle that we face. General Secretary Xi has said that our mighty national spirit is the source of our pride, the foundation of our confidence in the path, theories, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the force that allows us to advance valiantly through all difficulties.

It is possible to transform material wealth into intellectual wealth, and vice versa. Once grasped by the people, great thoughts and theories can turn into a powerful and inexhaustible material force. After withstanding the test posed by the fight against COVID-19, the Party will be able to make more informed decisions about how to uphold, consolidate, improve, and develop China's cultural governance system and capacity as it continues to pool the strength and will of the people on the road ahead.


Judges of the Tongling Intermediate People's Court in Anhui Province conduct an open hearing of a case using the "cloud court" smart trial support system. Aimed at effectively practicing epidemic prevention and control by limiting the assembly of people, it was the first time that this court heard a case online. PEOPLE'S DAILY / PHOTO BY HONG WEI

This is a major test of China's social governance system and capacity.

Local communities are the foundation of social governance. Residential communities in urban and rural areas are the front lines of joint epidemic prevention and control, and the most effective line of defense to guard against inbound COVID-19 cases and prevent the spread of existing cases. Therefore, our ability to build tight lines of defense in these communities will determine whether or not we achieve overall success in the fight against the epidemic. The rule of law is a guarantee for maintaining order and stability in society, and also for the smooth execution of epidemic prevention and control measures. Since the 18th National Congress, as a result of more effective efforts to uphold the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC, we have significantly enhanced social governance based on collaboration, co-governance, and common gains, created new and improved approaches to social governance, and refined our social governance system featuring leadership exercised by Party committees, implementation under taken by the government, democratic consultation, multi-sector cooperation, public participation, and legal and technological support. These efforts are important guarantees for ensuring that the people can lead healthy lives and work in peace and contentment, that society remains orderly, harmonious, and vibrant, and that our nation prevails in the fight against the epidemic.

The grid-based management mechanism built by local communities across the country has played an indispensable role in epidemic prevention and control. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, all areas of the country have quickly developed protective networks in districts, counties, sub-districts, and urban and rural communities, funneled resources and manpower for prevention and control toward lower levels, mobilized social forces to participate in epidemic prevention and control, and worked to ensure that all COVID-19 cases are detected, reported, isolated, and treated as early as possible. In Wuhan, more than 30,000 officials and members of the public went to work in 1,100 residential communities, conducting several thorough rounds of screening, and knocking on every door to ensure that not a single household or individual was missed. Through the "double duty" mechanism, Beijing arranged for 94,000 Party members working in government offices, enterprises, and public institutions to report for duty in residential communities, thus providing local communities with additional personnel to build tight lines of defense against the epidemic through collective prevention and control. In addition, cutting-edge technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing have been closely incorporated in social governance, creating a new model of intelligent governance that has yielded fantastic results in epidemic prevention and control. Advanced technology has been broadly applied through the analysis of epidemic data, monitoring of population flows around the Spring Festival, and smart distribution of supplies, while high-tech methods have become extremely important tools that play a unique supporting role in joint prevention and control and targeted policy implementation.

We have exercised law-based prevention and control and law-based governance, thereby ensuring that our institutional strengths are used effectively in governance. Governments at all levels have made decisions in a prudent and law-based manner, implemented measures for epidemic prevention and control and emergency response in strict accordance with the law, and reported on epidemic information in line with legally prescribed requirements, procedures, methods, and time limits. They have launched campaigns to increase public awareness of the law regarding epidemic prevention and control, and guided the general public in raising awareness of the rule of law while supporting and cooperating with epidemic prevention and control measures. As the state of the epidemic grew more complex and severe, it was even more important for us to work vigorously to safeguard social stability. We have severely punished illegal and criminal activities that would disrupt the order of medical services, epidemic prevention, the market, and society in accordance with the law, and promptly addressed budding problems and worrisome trends in epidemic prevention and control. In addition, we have imposed strict penalties on individuals who have started or spread rumors, attempted to drive up prices and disrupt the market, refused to comply with or acted violently toward anti-epidemic personnel, or deliberately concealed symptoms or information of past travel in accordance with the law.

General Secretary Xi has shown special concern for all of our medical staff, requesting that they be well taken care of and supported in every way possible. To this end, the central and all local governments have taken a number of swift steps to ensure that medical staff have the protective supplies and daily necessities they need and that measures are in place to keep them safe. Arrangements have also been made to coordinate staggered breaks, enhance psychological counseling, ensure payment of wages, temporary work subsidies, and additional prevention and control bonuses, and improve incentive mechanisms for medical workers, as well as to give greater support for their families. On this basis, we have helped relieve the concerns of medical workers, thereby ensuring that they remain healthy and maintain high enthusiasm and morale so that they can continue their fight against the epidemic.

This is a major test of China's ecological governance system and capacity.

A sound environment is critical for the people's health, while environmental protection, biosafety, and healthy and civilized lifestyles are important components of epidemic prevention and control. If the environment is in a sorry state when an epidemic breaks out, then it is more than likely that environmental problems will exacerbate public health challenges, resulting in an even greater devastation and potentially causing severe social and political problems. Since the 18th National Congress, the Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core has made continuous efforts to build a deeper understanding of the laws governing the development of an ecological civilization. As a result, China has made significant progress in developing an ecological civilization, becoming the first major developing country in the world to launch a large-scale PM2.5 control program. China has also built the world's largest wastewater treatment capacity, implemented comprehensive measures to control pollution in rivers, lakes, and oceans, worked vigorously to ensure that urban and rural residents have access to safe drinking water and effective waste treatment, launched the "toilet revolution", and worked to make cities, towns, and villages more civilized and hygienic. These achievements have played an important role in effectively defusing environmental problems caused by the epidemic, and preventing the epidemic from spreading and becoming worse.

Since the epidemic began, the amount of infectious medical waste has grown rapidly, increasing by 50% or more in the hardest-hit areas. In order to ensure that this waste is disposed of in a safe, timely, orderly, and efficient manner, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has managed the operations of disposal facilities throughout the country every day since January 20, and coordinated with 13 cities and prefectures in Hubei in this regard. The capacity of Hubei for medical waste disposal has thus been greatly improved, rising from 180 to 648.6 metric tons per day, while Wuhan's capacity has increased from 50 to 262.8 metric tons per day. In 358 cities and prefectures across the country, epidemic-related medical waste has been disposed of in a smooth and orderly manner. To ensure that various types of surface water and groundwater will not be contaminated by the virus, local authorities have rapidly formed monitoring teams, increased the frequency of monitoring activities, and added new indices for the monitoring process, in an effort to dispel public misgivings and safeguard clean waters on the basis of true, accurate, and complete data obtained through unified monitoring. At present, the system for collecting, transporting, and disposing of household waste covers more than 84% of administrative villages in the country. The living environments in most villages have improved significantly, laying sound ecological foundations for epidemic prevention and control efforts in rural areas.

The COVID-19 outbreak is closely related to wildlife. Since the epidemic began, departments in charge of public security and market supervision have stepped up efforts to regulate wildlife markets. The Supreme People's Procuratorate has mandated that severe punishments should be imposed on all crimes related to rare and endangered wildlife. By February 17, prosecuting bodies across the country had prosecuted 184 criminal cases and 271 people involving the destruction of wildlife resources since epidemic prevention and control measures were put in place. At the 16th Session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress on February 24, a resolution to completely ban the illegal wildlife trade and eliminate the distasteful custom of consuming wild animals was reviewed and adopted with a view to protecting the people's health and safety. This represents a powerful legal guarantee for defeating the epidemic.

As a major battle and a major test, epidemic prevention and control have reflected China's multiple strengths related to our governance system and capacity, but also exposed some weaknesses that need to be shored up. This knowledge has impelled governments at all levels to act more purposefully and effectively to improve the system, strengthen governance, and enhance governance capacity. Speaking at the 12th meeting of the Central Commission for Comprehensively Deepening Reform on February 14, General Secretary Xi emphasized that, in light of the shortcomings and deficiencies that the epidemic has exposed, we must work faster to address inadequacies, plug loopholes, and shore up weaknesses, upholding, improving, establishing, and applying systems wherever necessary. At a planning session held on February 23, Xi Jinping requested further that we draw on past experiences and lessons, and conduct in-depth research on how we should tackle major issues such as strengthening legal guarantees in the public health domain, reforming and improving systems for guarding against disease and for preventing, controlling, and treating major epidemics, enhancing medical insurance and assistance systems for major diseases, and developing a unified system for guaranteeing emergency supplies, in an effort to raise our capacity and standards for responding to major public health emergencies. The fight against the epidemic has made people more aware that major risks are most likely to be triggered at points of weakness. We must therefore further our reform to gradually establish well-defined institutions, procedures, standards, and laws that underpin national governance, ensuring that our institutional strengths are used effectively in governance.

As General Secretary Xi pointed out, "Always representing the fundamental interests of the majority of the people, guaranteeing their role as masters of the country, embodying their common will, and safeguarding their legitimate rights and interests are the essential attributes of China's state system and national governance system, and are fundamental to ensuring that both systems work effectively and vigorously." The Chinese people have gone through an unusual spring season locked in the fight against the epidemic. On the road ahead, we will continue leveraging our institutional and governance strengths to overcome any new risk and challenge we encounter, and drive forward the modernization of our national governance system and capacity through any test that we face.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 5, 2020)

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