Xi Jinping vows to build strong public health system to ensure China’s stability

05/6 2020 18:45

Chinese president pledges to pour resources into network to enable swift response to disease outbreaks
But analysts say that this alone will not prevent a recurrence of infections like Sars and Covid-19

Chinese President Xi Jinping  has vowed to build a strong public health system, saying it is crucial to China’s development strategy and national security. Xi made the commitment in a high-profile speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday in a closed-door meeting with a number of top medical and public health experts, including respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan.

It is common practice for the Communist Party leaders to use meetings with experts to highlight policy and political priorities, and the gathering in Beijing has featured on state broadcaster CCTV’s prime time news for three days in a row.

At the meeting, Xi has pledged to pour resources to create a public health network linking central and local governments, disease control and prevention agencies, laboratories, hospitals and grass-roots health institutes, as well as public health schools to ensure quick identification and responses to outbreaks of new infectious diseases. He also ordered better coordination and discipline to plug the technical loopholes.

“The safety of people is the cornerstone of national security … A disease prevention system is … important to ensure economic and social stability,” state news agency Xinhua reported, summarising Xi’s speech.

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said it was telling for Xi to link the public health system to national security.

“In January and February the party-state and Xi’s own leadership faced a severe test of credibility and for a while it did not look good for either,” Tsang said.

“So, there is a recognition on his part that something like the Covid-19 pandemic must not be allowed to destabilise the leadership, particularly his leadership,” he said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.