Coronavirus poses challenge for China’s centralised system

Response to crisis exposes disadvantages of Xi Jinping’s highly centralised administration 1

Financial Times
Date: Jan 29, 2020
By: Christian Shepherd in Beijing and Sue-Lin Wong in Shenzhen

Xi Jinping has centralised power more than any other Communist leader of the past few decades © AP

When the mayor of Wuhan was asked on China’s state broadcaster why he had not disclosed the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in his city, he replied that his hands were tied by laws that required him to seek authorisation from Beijing.

“I hope everyone can understand why there wasn’t timely disclosure,” Zhou Xianwang said in the unusually frank interview this week. “After I received information, I needed authorisation before making it public,” he explained.

In a country that insists on political unity, the interview stands as a rare example of stresses between central and local government breaking into the open, as China’s response to the deadly respiratory virus becomes one of the biggest challenges to Xi Jinping’s presidency since he took power in 2012.

While the first cases of workers and shoppers contracting pneumonia in a market in the Chinese city emerged in early December, Beijing waited several weeks before issuing orders to curb the virus’s spread. Since then, 170 people have died and at least 7,711 have been infected.   [FULL  STORY]