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

By: Tong XinFrom:English Edition of Qiushi Journal | Updated: 2020-Jul-28 16:29
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A nation’s vitality is tempered in times of hardship, and a country’s governance system and capacity are tested through its response to risks and challenges.

The year 2020 is an important milestone, as it will mark the success of China’s efforts in building a moderately prosperous society and winning a decisive victory in the fight against poverty. However, as we embarked toward this bright new day, an unexpected storm brewed on the horizon: the COVID-19 epidemic suddenly descended upon Wuhan City and the rest of Hubei Province, and then spread across the country. This is the greatest public health challenge that the Chinese nation has faced since the founding of the PRC in 1949 due to the speed and extent of the spread of the virus and the difficulty of implementing effective prevention and control measures. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly impressed upon the entire Party and all Chinese people that achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park. It will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there, and we must be prepared to work even harder toward this goal. In the face of this immense crisis, General Secretary Xi announced to the world: “The Chinese nation has gone through much suffering in its history, but has remained undaunted. Instead, it has forged ahead with greater courage, continuing to grow and rise up amidst suffering.” Led by the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core, the Chinese people have shown greater solidarity and diligence than ever before, devoting their undivided attention and effort to epidemic prevention and control. People from all sectors of society and all parts of the country have brought together an incredible pool of strength to wage an all-out people’s war against the epidemic. The Chinese people are well aware of the fact that the fight against COVID-19 is not only an intense battle, but also a thorough and comprehensive test of China’s national governance system and capacity. Therefore, we must fully leverage the institutional advantages and governing efficiency of Chinese socialism and work hard to coordinate epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development so that we can defeat the epidemic while also reaching the objectives of building a moderately prosperous society and winning the fight against poverty on schedule.

Epidemic prevention and control is a major test of CPC’s capacity for exercising centralized and unified leadership.

Epidemic prevention and control is a challenge that is difficult for humanity to avoid, since infectious diseases have been present throughout human history, and an issue that continues to test the governing philosophies, decision-making mechanisms, and leadership capacity of governments and ruling parties around the world. Especially at the beginning of an epidemic, when information is limited, science-based answers are lacking, and the situation remains unpredictable, the questions of how to make sound predictions and resolute decisions, and how to rapidly create strategies and plans in order to secure more time and seize the initiative in epidemic prevention and control pose a serious challenge that put leadership systems and mechanisms as well as national governance capacity to the test. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core has made the health and safety of the people the absolute priority, fully leveraged the strengths of the CPC’s centralized, unified leadership, and made resolute decisions based on objective overall assessments of actual developments in the epidemic and the latest scientific findings as well as specific protocols for treating infectious diseases and patterns of viral transmission. The Central Committee immediately put epidemic prevention and control at the top of the agenda for the Party and the government, and united and led the entire Party, military, and nation in a determined fight against the epidemic.

Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan. On February 6, after ten days of round-the-clock efforts, the hospital passed inspection, becoming an important battleground for the fight against COVID-19 in Wuhan. PHOTO BY HUBEI DAILY REPORTER ZHOU LIXIN

With an unknown and extremely harmful virus spreading rapidly during the Spring Festival, a time when over one billion people traditionally travel and gather together, unified command and action were needed so that concrete and effective measures could be implemented to control sources of infection and block pathways of transmission. General Secretary Xi and the Central Committee made the decision to take direct command of epidemic prevention and control. The illness caused by this unknown coronavirus was classified as Class B infectious disease while being strictly controlled with measures for Class A diseases, and a whole series of response strategies were rapidly formulated and implemented. Wuhan and other parts of Hubei Province were designated as the main battlegrounds of the fight against the epidemic and the primary focus of epidemic prevention and control efforts, with Hubei Province ordered to implement comprehensive and rigorous controls on outflows of people starting from January 22. This was a key move and the most effective method for controlling sources of infection and blocking pathways of transmission. Meanwhile, we implemented measures for other provinces tailored to their regional conditions and the state of the epidemic in their respective areas, and formed a nationwide effort by coordinating various forces behind epidemic prevention and control. By analyzing how a country responds to a major crisis, one can get a clearer picture of the quality and efficiency of its national governance system and capacity. Many foreign dignitaries have commented that China is the only country that could act so decisively and organize and mobilize on such an impressive scale. If China’s national governance system and capacity were mired in an environment of indecisiveness, inaction, and ineffectiveness caused by infighting and conflicting agendas, it would be difficult to imagine how the entire nation could have come together to execute orders in a disciplined manner and fight the epidemic through concerted efforts.

Under the centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core, manpower and resources for treatment, prevention, and control have been quickly sent to the front lines. The country’s best scientific researchers have focused their efforts on making key breakthroughs, and as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a meeting with General Secretary Xi, they identified the pathogen in “record time.” More than 40,000 medical staff from all over the country have rushed into Wuhan and other parts of Hubei, bringing with them sophisticated medical equipment. Meanwhile, 19 provinces have offered assistance to support treatment,prevention, and control in 16 cities and prefectures in Hubei other than Wuhan. Key medical supplies have been allocated in unified management, and delivered to the front lines. Party committees and governments at all levels have followed the centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee, and Party members have set a good example in rising to meet the challenge. The whole country has been mobilized in the fight, from the cities to the countryside, with the entire population taking part both out in public and within their own communities. Dr. Tedros praised China in this regard, saying that the country has acted with speed, scale, and efficiency rarely seen in the world, and suggested that other countries learn from China’s experience.

The world has been even more impressed by China’s ability to balance epidemic prevention and control with tasks concerning economic and social development. General Secretary Xi called on the entire Party and all Chinese people to adopt this dual approach after taking stock of signs that the situation was improving as he dedicated himself to leading epidemic prevention and control efforts. He has emphasized the need to stimulate China’s huge potential and strong momentum for development, and to effectively fulfill all goals for economic and social development set by the Central Committee without slowing down or taking a pause. He has also emphasized the need to accurately analyze and understand the state of both the epidemic and economic and social development, and to focus intently on principal contradictions and the main aspects of these contradictions. By doing so, we will emerge victorious from all-out people’s war against the epidemic while striving to reach the goals of building a moderately prosperous society and winning the fight against poverty.

Farmers weed and thin out tea seedlings in Fenshui Village, Lujiang County, Anhui Province on February 12, 2020 (drone photo). With the arrival of the spring planting season, all localities have worked to ensure effective implementation of epidemic prevention and control measures while setting solid foundations for agricultural production this year by helping farmers keep up with the farming schedule and vigorously launch production. XINHUA / PHOTO BY ZUO XUECHANG

Great calamities serve as litmus tests of effective leadership. China’s fight against the epidemic has proven that the Central Committee has made accurate assessments, produced timely plans, and adopted effective measures. General Secretary Xi has served as the backbone of the entire Party, military, and nation’s efforts in this regard, while the Central Committee’s authority and centralized, unified leadership have served as fundamental guarantees for defeating the epidemic.

Epidemic prevention and control is a major test of China’s political governance system and capacity.

To assess a country’s political competence, one must first look at the political competence of the ruling party, examining its political program and governance policies as well as their implementation, the concrete actions of its members, and the strength of the foundations on which its ability to govern is based. Since its 18th National Congress, the CPC has upheld the principle of putting the people first, and ensured that the concepts of respecting the popular will, pooling the strength and wisdom of the people, and improving public wellbeing are reflected in every aspect of national governance. It has thus built more solid class foundations and firmer roots among the people to support its governance. The battle against COVID-19 has served as an opportunity to test and confirm the close ties between the Party and the people as well as the political competence of Party members, Party committees, and governments at all levels. This has provided important guarantees for effectively exercising political leadership, organizing and mobilizing the general public, and implementing the decisions and plans of the Central Committee.

Medical workers perform temperature and identity checks on 25 employees of Zhejiang Tianneng Power Energy Co., Ltd. who arrived safely in Zhejiang Province from Yunnan Province on the evening of February 14, 2020. Transport authorities in Changxing County, Huzhou, Zhejiang Province helped local companies get their non-local employees back to work through point-to-point transfers by chartering inter-province and inter-city buses. PEOPLE’S DAILY / PHOTO BY WU ZHENG

When the epidemic struck, the Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core issued clear directives, while Party members and Party organizations at all levels worked with great determination to see that they were implemented immediately. This has proven that the CPC is indeed a party that puts the people first, and that its great strength comes from governing in the interests of the people. Party organizations at all levels have exercised strong leadership, while community-level Party organizations and Party members have set an example and played a key role on the front lines, tempering their sense of mission and responsibility by throwing themselves into the fight against the epidemic. They have also worked to mobilize the people, convey messages to them, organize them, and unite them, building a tight line of defense against the epidemic through joint prevention and control. The Party flag has flown high on the front lines since the crisis began. Moreover, the people’s army, as the loyal guardian of the Party and the people, immediately mobilized when called to action and led the charge, demonstrating the deep emotional bond between the army and the people and solidifying this bond even further.

In a vast and populous country like China, it is a formidable task to organize and bring together various forces behind large-scale anti-epidemic efforts within a short period of time. Tens of thousands of confirmed and suspected cases were admitted and given the best possible treatment, hundreds of thousands of close contacts were placed under medical observation, and tens of millions of people potentially at risk of being infected were asked to stay home under observation. We have tailored treatment plans to critically ill patients on a case-by-case basis, with teams of elite experts led by top academics guiding clinical work on the front lines. We have also instituted measures such as ventilation, disinfection, and temperature checks at airports, railway stations, bus stations, docks,and other key locations as well as for enclosed spaces on public transport, and suspended all large-scale events as well as tours organized through travel agencies in order to minimize the number of public gatherings. We have released information on epidemic prevention and control in a timely and transparent manner, and established joint prevention and control mechanisms for effective coordination between different provinces. In line with changes in the epidemic situation, we have implemented differentiated prevention and control measures in different counties, in a bid to minimize the impact of the epidemic on reform and development.

Throughout the epidemic prevention and control process, China has also actively cooperated and exchanged information with the WHO and the international community, not only taking responsibility for the health and safety of the Chinese people, but also contributing to global public health efforts as a responsible major country. The international community generally feels that China’s resolute and aggressive prevention and control measures, as well as its outstanding ability to lead, respond, organize, mobilize, and implement policies have set an example for epidemic prevention around the world and represent an important contribution to all humanity.

While specific efforts for treatment,prevention, and control may appear to be highly specialized and technical in nature, these efforts are only possible through the leadership, organization, coordination, and implementation at every level of the political apparatus. In the early stage of the epidemic, there were certain localized instances of chaos that were very worrying, but these were just temporary phenomena that emerged as political and administrative mechanisms were still playing catch-up. The situation changed radically once all personnel were in the right position. Despite their different functions, Party organizations and governments at all levels, legislative, judicial, and law enforcement departments at all levels, political parties participating in the deliberation of state affairs, as well as people’s organizations and social organizations have worked in concert with each other, and ultimately formed strong synergy for fighting against the epidemic, with resources being used where they are most needed. At this time of crisis, the high efficiency of China’s political system has been on clear display for the entire world to see.

After withstanding the test posed by the fight against COVID-19, the CPC will be able to make more informed decisions on how to uphold, consolidate, improve, and develop its political governance system and capacity so that it can continue to govern for the people and pool strength behind major undertakings on the road ahead.

This is a major test of China’s economic governance system and capacity.

General Secretary Xi made it very clear that maintaining support services is an integral part of our fight to curb the epidemic. This is a moment in which China’s economic system and economic strength are being tested. Rarely in the history of the world has there been an undertaking as ambitious as China’s efforts to simultaneously secure victory against the epidemic and fulfill economic and social development goals. Since the 18th National Congress, the entire Party and all Chinese people have maintained unwavering commitment to reform and development, unleashed and developed productive forces to a tremendous extent, significantly consolidated and improved the basic socialist economic system, implemented the new development philosophy, boosted supply-side structural reform, and promoted high-quality development, thereby building even more solid economic foundations. In 2019, China’s GDP reached nearly 100 trillion yuan, with per capita GDP surpassing US$10,000 for the first time. Our economic system and economic strength are important institutional and material guarantees for defeating the epidemic that have also provided the foundations and support necessary for coordinating epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development.

When the epidemic was in its most rampant stage, the epicenter of Wuhan found it difficult to guarantee that all patients in need could be admitted and treated with existing hospital beds. Soon after the outbreak began, Wuhan acted quickly to requisition 7 hospitals, making over 3,000 beds available. At the same time, the Central Committee directed efforts to provide assistance across the country, ensuring that two specialized hospitals, namely Huoshenshan and Leishenshan, were each built within ten days, and that modifications were made to set up a large number of temporary hospitals. As of February 23, Wuhan had set up 16 temporary hospitals, which admitted more than 10,000 patients, significantly alleviating the pressure from the large influx of COVID-19 cases. The world was astonished by how quickly China was able to expand the number of hospitals and beds, but these efforts only reflected a part of our country’s economic strength. Departments of public finance have continuously increased funding for supporting epidemic prevention and control. As of February 23, governments at all levels had allocated 99.5 billion yuan for epidemic prevention and control, 25.52 billion of which was from the central treasury. With the added support of the world’s largest network for providing universal basic medical insurance, China has ensured that its people are not deterred from seeking medical help because of prohibitive costs, and that medical treatment and epidemic prevention and control are not jeopardized because of a lack of funds in any region.

China has a population of 1.4 billion, and therefore huge amounts of medical supplies are needed to treat patients. To ensure effective prevention and control across the country, an even larger amount of medical supplies such as masks, protective garments, ethyl alcohol, disinfectants, and thermometers are needed. As a result, there was a huge gap between the massive demand and the limited stock of supplies, and there were even barely enough supplies for medical workers on the front lines in Wuhan at one point. Since the outbreak of the epidemic coincided with the Spring Festival holiday, most producers of medical supplies were on vacation and had either partially or completely suspended production. Through the unified coordination of the Central Committee, we have ensured that all medical supply companies have resumed work and production, and made all-out efforts to resolve issues regarding labor, funds, and supplies of raw materials. Throughout this process, central government- owned enterprises have fully exerted their role as the main national force, and spared no effort in converting existing enterprises to produce medical supplies and increasing production as much as possible and as quickly as possible regardless of the expenses involved, with unconditional commitment and a wartime posture. China’s daily output of medical protective suits reached 330,000 as of February 24, and daily output of masks reached 76.19 million as of February 25, thereby ensuring that front line medical workers in Hubei Province have enough of the key medical supplies that they need.

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)