Chinese President Xi Jinping, also secretary general of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and president of the Central Military Commission, chairs a symposium at the School of Medicine of Tsinghua University in Beijing, capital of China, March 2, 2020.
Yan Yan | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
Chinese President Xi Jinping flew to Wuhan City on Tuesday morning to inspect new coronavirus control efforts, according to CCTV state television.
The visit marks the final step in the leader’s public turnaround on involvement in the fight against the disease, which killed over 3,100 people in the country after emerging in Wuhan in late December. Officially called COVID-19, the disease has now affected more than 100 countries including the United States and several in Europe. Concerns about the impact of the virus on world economic growth have made global markets falter.
As the spread of the virus accelerated in January, Xi took a relatively modest stance and first addressed the disease publicly in a January 20 state media release that called for “resolute efforts” in the fight against the virus. Instead, his second in command Li Keqiang is leading a nationwide leading group for virus prevention and control, and visited Wuhan on January 27, more than a month ago.
Xi started taking a bigger public role in the fight against the virus in mid-February. In particular, on February 15, the Communist Party magazine “Qiushi” published a speech on February 3 in which the president said he had known about the disease as early as January 7.
Since then, Xi’s public statements and appearances on virus prevention sites have only increased. The Chinese leader stressed the need to balance the prevention of the spread of the disease with the support of the economy, which struggled to resume normal activity due to blockages and other efforts to limit the spread of the highly contagious virus.
State media such as People’s Daily, the official Chinese newspaper for the Communist Party, showed videos of Xi’s visit to Wuhan on Tuesday.
“(Xi) will use the episode to support his personal authority,” said Tom Rafferty, chief economist, China, The Economist Intelligence Unit, in an email.
“China will also exalt its approach to controlling coronavirus as a model for other countries currently in the early stages of epidemics,” said Rafferty. “We expect it to offer direct assistance to containment efforts elsewhere, particularly in the Belt and Road Initiative countries.”
Xi’s visit to Wuhan comes when the number of new confirmed cases, mainly in the city or other parts of the surrounding Hubei province, has decreased to less than 50 per day. State media reported Sunday that 11 of Wuhan’s 14 improvised hospitals for the treatment of the new coronavirus were closed.
“I always thought that the number one signal for the Chinese government that had enough confidence to declare it as the end would be when President Xi goes to Wuhan,” Mark Matthews, chief executive officer and chief of research in Asia at the Bank told CNBC. Julius Baer “Asia road signs”.
“So the fact that you see it’s there I think is extremely important for the economy and the market,” said Matthews.
Mainland China’s main equity indices rose by more than 1% with the reopening of markets for the Tuesday afternoon trading session.
Iris Pang, chief economist of Greater China at ING, was more cautious in ending the spread of the disease in the country.
“There are more and more cases imported into China, and therefore the spread of coronavirus from imported cases. In addition, the (return of workers to the office) and factories could also create another wave of coronavirus cases in China,” he said. called CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Tuesday. “So I’m not that optimistic.”
– CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee and Abigail Ng contributed to this report.