The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) declared “victory” over the COVID-19 pandemic on Sept. 8, despite infections still popping up in mainland China.
Observers believe that Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s rush to celebration is aimed at countering criticism and pressure from both within the Party and the international community, as a growing number of countries have lambasted Beijing for covering up the initial outbreak and allowing the virus to spread globally.
The seven members of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee—the Party’s top decision-making body—attended a “celebration ceremony” held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Xi delivered a speech, claiming that the Party enabled the country to “pass an extraordinary and historic test.” He also gave out medals to medical personnel including Zhong Nanshan, respiratory disease expert and academician at the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences; and Chen Wei, head of the Biological Engineering Institute, which is part of an academy affiliated with China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army. He is a top expert in China’s bioweapons research.
Meanwhile at a World Health Organization (WHO) press conference on Sept. 7, Executive Director of WHO’s Emergency Projects Michael Ryan emphasized that until the global pandemic is truly over, any place is at risk of recurrence.
Observers and activists believe that Xi wants to use the victory celebration to lessen the pressure from different factions within the Party and to consolidate his position and power as its leader.
Chinese netizens criticized Beijing’s ceremony as a political performance. Netizen “Quan Zhisheng” asked a series of questions: “is the epidemic completely over? Has the vaccine been developed? Has the whole nation paid public tribute to the victims? Have the officials who covered up the pandemic been dealt with? Yet...the celebration party was held!”
Netizen RHBNg commented: “the Party-state is good at turning funerals into celebrations. This time the commendation ceremony may be its way of bluffing to other countries that China has completely eliminated the pandemic, and people can then come here for tourism, business, or school as usual. And [the Party] can deceive other countries to open up to China.”