China is embroiled in a heated diplomatic confrontation with the U.. S.. . – one that may not end with the arrival of a new White House resident. At home, President Xi Jinping continues to strengthen his power. Meanwhile, the world is fighting to stop the coronavirus pandemic on Chinese soil. The head of the Nikkei office in China, Tetsushi Takahashi, follows these world-forming stories from the heart of Beijing.
Every New Year’s Eve, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks to the nation from his office in Zhongnanhai, Beijing’s political nerve center.
« We have overcome the effects of the pandemic and achieved great successes in coordinating prevention and control as well as in economic and social development, » this time he praised his own handling of COVID-19.
In fact, since China largely contains the coronavirus, it is the only major economy that has seen positive growth since the April-June quarter of 2020. « China’s gross domestic product is expected to rise to a new level of 100 trillion yuan ($ 15) in 2020. 3 trillion), « said Xi.
For ordinary citizens, the annual New Year’s Speech broadcast on China’s State Central Television offers a rare glimpse into the Supreme Leader’s office.
Xi sits at a large desk in front of a Chinese flag and a painting of the Great Wall. The painting is flanked by bookshelves with numerous framed photographs. In recent years, explaining the photos has become a Chinese media tradition.
CCTV counted 21 images this year. Many were family snapshots – Xi posed with his wife Peng Liyuan or rode a bicycle with his daughter on his back. They were likely shown to promote Xi as a family man.
A closer look at the footage also reveals two red telephones on his desk. Known within the party as « red machines », these are exclusive lines with four-digit numbers. Apparently only members of the Politburo and high-ranking party officials in ministerial posts or higher can call the President on these phones. Xi must use them to give direct instructions.
When the coronavirus hit the city of Wuhan in February and March 2020, I remember CCTV repeatedly emphasizing, « Secretary-General Xi Jinping himself is leading and taking action. « I wonder if Xi kept barking orders into the red phones.
There are still thorough disease controls in Beijing. Whenever an infection is found, all close contacts are immediately quarantined.
On Saturday morning, I stopped at a hotel on the outskirts of town where an infected person was found late last year. The area was blocked by a green wall and nearby restaurants were closed. It was like a ghost town.
Less than a year ago, scenes like this were common in Beijing itself. Any significant virus resurgence could ruin the Chinese Communist Party’s centenary celebrations, scheduled for July.
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