III. Assembling a Powerful Force to Beat the Virus
Facing the sudden onslaught of a previously unknown virus, China has put the people's interests first – nothing is more precious than people's lives. It has rapidly mobilized the manpower and resources of the whole nation and done everything possible to protect the lives and health of its people. A powerful synergy has been formed thanks to the following factors: observing the people-centered governance philosophy of the CPC; China's ability to mobilize resources to accomplish major initiatives; its composite national strength built up during more than four decades of reform and opening up, particularly since the 18th CPC National Congress held in November 2012; remarkable achievements in modernizing governance; two defining values of Chinese culture – solidarity and mutual assistance; and the profound love of the Chinese people for their family and their country.
1. Lives Are Precious
At a critical time when people's lives and health were endangered, the CPC and the Chinese government acted with a keen sense of responsibility and swiftly identified the problem. The central authorities took multiple factors into consideration, made timely and resolute decisions, employed extraordinary measures to deal with an extraordinary emergency, and made every effort to safeguard people's lives and health.
Placing people's lives above economic growth. When the novel coronavirus struck, China decided that it would protect the lives and health of its people even at the cost of a short-term economic downturn and even a temporary shutdown. The government took strict and comprehensive control measures, never tried before, in the city of Wuhan and Hubei Province. To stem the spread of the virus, the movement of people across the country was tightly restricted, the Chinese New Year holiday was extended, gatherings were stopped, and the spring semester and business operations were postponed. In an editorial,The Lancetstated: "China's success has come with huge social and economic costs, and China must make difficult decisions to achieve an optimal balance between health and economic protection."
At the critical juncture of the fight against the virus, based on a precise understanding of the evolving situation, China took the major decision to continue Covid-19 prevention and control while resuming economic and social development. While restarting normal work in an orderly manner, it took targeted measures in different regions based on local conditions, so as to ensure people's daily life and wellbeing to the greatest possible extent. Having succeeded in containing the spread of the virus on the mainland, the Chinese government adopted a strategy of preventing inbound infections and domestic resurgence, to ensure its hard-won progress would not be lost.
Saving lives at all costs. In the early stage of the epidemic, as the cases of infection soared, China made raising the cure rate and lowering the fatality rate its top priority. The best doctors and nurses were rapidly dispatched to the front line of the fight against the virus. Employing proactive, science-based, and flexible ways of treatment, they did everything possible to treat each and every patient, from an infant only 30 hours old to a centenarian. The goal was to save every single patient whatever the cost.
Medical workers braved the threat of infection to collect virus specimens. No one flinched, however daunting their task. To treat seriously ill patients, local governments and hospitals tried every means to acquire and reallocate ECMO equipment. Since the virus struck, hospitals in Wuhan designated for treating severe cases have treated more than 9,600 such cases. The recovery rate has risen from 14 percent to 89 percent, higher than the average rate for normal viral pneumonia. Tailored treatment was given to elderly patients with underlying medical conditions. As long as there was the slightest hope, doctors would never give up, and the need for personnel, medicines, equipment, or funds was met. To date, more than 3,000 patients over the age of 80, including 7 centenarians, have been cured, with many of them brought back to life from the verge of death. For example, a 70-year-old patient was saved thanks to intensive treatment and care by more than 10 medical workers over a period of several weeks. The cost of his treatment, nearly RMB1.5 million, was fully covered by the government.
Care and compassion for Chinese citizens overseas. China takes the safety of its citizens abroad very seriously. It has urged the governments of other countries to take effective measures to ensure the safety of Chinese students, the personnel of Chinese-funded institutions, and other Chinese nationals in their countries, and has supported them in doing so. Medical expert teams and work groups have been dispatched overseas and telemedicine service platforms set up, which provide scientific and professional guidance on Covid-19 prevention and control for Chinese citizens in other countries. Chinese medical teams have worked with host countries to ensure the best possible treatment for Chinese citizens diagnosed with infection. China has fully mobilized experts at home, medical teams on foreign aid missions, and other resources to assist foreign countries to provide treatment to these patients.
Performing their consular protection duties, Chinese embassies and consulates abroad have disseminated information on Covid-19 prevention and self-protection through all channels, and have provided more than 1 million "health kits" to overseas Chinese students. They have also helped overseas Chinese citizens in difficulty to return home.
National tribute to the deceased. On April 4, the Chinese traditional Tomb-sweeping Day, China paid tribute to all those who had given their lives in the fight against Covid-19, and those who had died of the disease. People throughout the country observed a silence to mourn the loss of lives and pay tribute to heroes who had protected others' lives at the cost of their own. From the top leader to ordinary people, 1.4 billion Chinese bade farewell to their dear departed. This solemn national ceremony demonstrates that the country respects and holds in awe the dignity and lives of people as individuals. It signifies the solidarity and strength of 1.4 billion Chinese.
2. Mobilizing the Whole Country to Fight the Epidemic
When a disaster strikes in one location, help comes from all quarters. After the outbreak, the entire country acted promptly. Relying on its overall national strength, China mobilized the people, enhanced R&D, procured supplies, and brought them to those in need rapidly. It mustered the support of the whole country to assist Hubei, and particularly Wuhan, to combat the disease. It pooled all its strength in the shortest period of time, and halted the spread of the epidemic. Hailing the speed and scale of China's response, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described it as unprecedented, and said it showed the efficiency and the strength of China's system.
Launching the largest medical assistance operation since the founding of the PRC. China mobilized all its medical resources to support the efforts in Wuhan and other locations in Hubei. From January 24, Chinese New Year's Eve, to March 8, it rallied 346 national medical teams, consisting of 42,600 medical workers and more than 900 public health professionals to the immediate aid of Hubei and the city of Wuhan. Nineteen provinces and equivalent administrative units assisted 16 other cities in Hubei in the form of paired assistance. While burdened with the heavy responsibility of coronavirus prevention and control and treatment of patients in their home cities, they still pooled together quality medical resources to assist Hubei and Wuhan.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) dispatched over 4,000 medical personnel to Hubei to work in epidemic control. They took on medical work in three designated medical institutions, including Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan. The PLA Air Force dispatched aircraft to transport emergency medical supplies. Medical teams were formed within two hours of receiving the order, and they arrived at their destinations within 24 hours, carrying a seven-day stock of protective materials. On arrival, they started to treat patients right away.
The government urgently solicited automatic temperature measuring equipment, negative pressure ambulances, ventilators, electrocardiogram monitors, and other key medical supplies from across the country for Wuhan and other locations in Hubei. It mobilized 40,000 construction workers and several thousand sets of machinery and equipment to build two hospitals. The construction of the 1,000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital was completed in just 10 days, and that of the 1,600-bed Leishenshan Hospital in just 12 days. In 10 short days, 16 temporary treatment centers providing over 14,000 beds were built. To increase blood supply for clinical use in surgery, 10 provinces donated to Hubei 45,000 units of red blood cells, 1,762 therapeutic doses of platelets, and 1,370 liters of fresh frozen plasma (not including convalescent plasma). These massive and powerful medical assistance actions have guaranteed Covid-19 treatment in Hubei and Wuhan, greatly relieving the pressure on the hardest-hit areas caused by severe shortages of medical resources.
Increasing the production and supply of medical supplies and medical support services. Victory in the battle against Covid-19 depends on logistical support. In view of the extreme scarcity of medical protective materials in Wuhan during the early stage of the epidemic, medical workers on the front line overcame difficulties and used every item for the longest possible time, so as to conserve them in the race to save lives. To address the shortfall in medical resources while patient numbers surged, China exploited the full strength of its comprehensive and resilient manufacturing sector and its complete industrial chain.
To overcome the unfavorable combination of a pause in work and the resultant decline in manufacturing output during the Chinese New Year holiday, the Chinese government mobilized factories across the country to operate at full capacity and tap into their full potential. With all its strength, it supported raw materials supplies and transport facilities throughout the industrial chain, so as to ensure large-scale production and distribution of materials for epidemic prevention and control. Medical manufacturers overcame such difficulties as labor shortages caused by workers not having returned to their posts. They resumed production as quickly as possible, and expanded capacity to the maximum.
Enterprises in other industries made rapid adjustments to their manufacturing facilities and turned to producing masks, protective suits, disinfectants, temperature measuring devices, and other products for the fight against the epidemic, thereby effectively expanding the overall output of such materials and equipment. The Chinese government quickly started procedures to review applications for producing medical supplies in times of emergency, and imposed stricter quality and safety supervision across the board, so as to facilitate production, ensure the quickest approval for sale, and guarantee supplies.
As of May 31, relevant authorities had approved 19 applications for clinical trials of 17 medicines and vaccines for coronavirus prevention and control, and conditionally approved the applications for sale of two medicines. Thanks to the joint efforts of many parties, manufacturing capacity for medical supplies increased steadily, and efforts to ensure the supply of medical materials and equipment achieved rapid progress: from acute shortage to borderline sufficiency, then from demand-supply balance to timely and sufficient supplies (see Table 2). The daily output of medical N95 masks and medical non-N95 masks increased from 130,000 and 5.86 million in early February to over 5 million and 200 million by the end of April. These efforts opened up unimpeded supply chains and logistics channels, gave birth to a coordination mechanism ensuring material supply, and allowed continuous transport of materials from across the country to the hardest-hit areas.
Coordinating and ensuring the supply of daily necessities. Once outbound traffic from Wuhan had been halted, nearly 10 million people were under home isolation in the city, requiring a huge amount of grain, vegetables, meat, eggs, and milk every day. A coordination mechanism was established to ensure supply of such products, which involved nine provinces, and 500 enterprises for prioritizing the shipment of supplies in times of emergency. The mechanism involved coordination between central and local governments, and joint actions by government and enterprises. It boosted the supply of grain and cooking oil, released central government reserves of frozen pork, and raised the supply capacity of provinces which are major vegetable bases. Transport teams were organized for emergency supplies, and forceful measures were taken to ensure the production, stocks, supply, and price stability of daily necessities for residents in Hubei, and particularly in Wuhan.
From January 27 to March 19, 928,800 tonnes of epidemic prevention and control materials and daily necessities were transported from across the country to Hubei via railway, highway, waterway, civil aviation, and express postal services. Bulk goods such as thermal coal and fuel totaling 1.49 million tonnes were also shipped. Sufficient supplies of coal, electricity, fuel, gas, and heat ensured the normal functioning of society and the smooth implementation of quarantine measures in Hubei and particularly in Wuhan. In Wuhan, delivery of daily necessities was included in community services, thus the last link of daily distribution - from supermarkets to communities - was assured. Through contactless delivery, vegetables that had gone through quarantine and met the standards were delivered directly to communities, meeting residents' needs and ensuring safety in terms of epidemic prevention.
Public participation in virus control. Trade unions, Communist Youth League organizations, women's federations, and other mass organizations organized and mobilized their contacts among the general public to get involved in Covid-19 prevention and control. Urban and rural residents, enterprises, and social organizations donated money and materials. Charities and the Red Cross Society of China improved the allocation of donated funds and materials, with a focus on Wuhan and other severely affected areas inside Hubei Province and elsewhere. As of May 31, they had received donations totaling about RMB38.93 billion and 990 million items of different materials. Of these, RMB32.83 billion and 940 million items had been disbursed.
Since the onset of the epidemic, fellow countrymen and women in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, and overseas Chinese have given a helping hand through various means and channels. They have actively donated money and materials for epidemic prevention and control. This shows how much we Chinese at home and abroad are committed to each other and demonstrates the unity and cohesion of the Chinese nation in times of difficulty.
3. Coordinating Prevention and Control with Social and Economic Development
Without compromising Covid-19 control, China has steadily resumed social and economic activities in an orderly way, so as to stabilize the six fronts (employment, finance, foreign trade, inbound investment, domestic investment, and market expectations), and guarantee the six priorities (jobs, daily living needs, food and energy, industrial and supply chains, the interests of market players, and the smooth functioning of grassroots government).
It has fostered a social and economic order under the conditions imposed by Covid-19 control and striven to minimize their impact on social and economic development, thus providing a strong material and social buttress for the fight against the epidemic.
Maintaining social order and stability. China has made every effort to ensure social order and stability, market order, public security, and supervision over the quality and pricing of epidemic-control supplies. It has adopted timely policies to ensure the basic livelihood of people in difficulties caused by Covid-19. Psychological counseling is provided to ease distress, nurture a healthy mindset, prevent and resolve potential problems, and defuse local disputes.
Despite strict measures such as traffic control and home-based quarantine, the economy and society have remained resilient. The supply of water, electricity, natural gas and telecommunication services continues, as does the supply of daily necessities in urban and rural areas. Key sectors providing food, pharmaceuticals, energy, basic industrial products, and public services that are essential to social stability and people's wellbeing are in normal operation, meeting the basic needs of 1.4 billion people.
Orderly resumption of work. The central government has quickly adopted a host of policies to reduce the burdens of businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises and self-employed people. These include measures such as reducing fees and lowering taxes, increasing government subsidies, strengthening financial support, stabilizing and expanding employment, and improving government services.
Local governments have issued detailed rules to implement these policies, especially to help the 10,000 plus key enterprises essential to Covid-19 control, public services, and daily necessities. Comprehensive services are being provided to help enterprises to resume operation, including providing personal protective gear and facilitating the flow of labor and materials. Point-to-point buses, trains and planes were chartered to send migrant workers back to their work posts. Preferential tax treatments such as exemption from value-added tax are available to businesses in transport, catering, hospitality, tourism, sport, entertainment and other sectors hit hard by the epidemic. Businesses also enjoy a temporary reduction in or exemption from social security contributions, a waiver of highway tolls, and reduced electricity and gas prices, and they are allowed to postpone their housing provident fund payments. Rent is being reduced for small and micro enterprises and the self-employed. The principal and interest repayment periods on loans to micro, small and medium enterprises are being extended, and more concessional loans are being provided.
Key groups such as college graduates and migrant workers are receiving support in finding jobs or starting businesses. Subsidies given to micro, small and medium enterprises to reduce layoffs are being extended to more businesses so as to stabilize employment and help them survive.
Policies on export tax rebates and export credit insurance are being put to good use, export credits expanded and new export markets explored. The negative list of market access for foreign investment has been cut to attract foreign investment. All these efforts will cut burdens on enterprises and stimulate their growth.
State-owned enterprises have taken the lead in resuming operations, providing impetus for upstream and downstream industries, including small and medium enterprises. By the end of April, 99 percent of companies of designated size - with a revenue of more than RMB20 million per annum - had resumed operations, as had 88.4 percent of micro, small and medium enterprises. Construction of over 95 percent of major projects across the country had resumed. In Hubei Province, more than 98.2 percent of enterprises of designated size had resumed operations, and 92.1 percent of their employees had returned to their jobs, and both these figures were close to the national average. Now, work on some key national science and technology projects, major national projects related to people's daily lives, and landmark foreign-funded projects has resumed. The Chinese economy is accelerating its return to normal operation, and it is becoming increasingly robust.
Gradual return to normal life. With steady progress made in Covid-19 control, public life is gradually returning to normal. Public transport services have fully resumed. More restaurants are reopening to the public. The May Day holiday in China saw a bustle of activity. During the five-day holiday, 121 million trips were made via railways, highways, waterways and air; and 115 million visits were paid to domestic tourist attractions, generating revenue of RMB47.56 billion.
Services such as shops, supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants have reopened their doors under Covid-19 control conditions. Students across the country have resumed their studies, and some have now returned to school. As of May 31, 163 million students and children in some grades of kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools across the country had returned to school or kindergarten. Public life is returning to normal in China, with people resuming their daily routines and consumption gradually picking up.