Almost exactly one month ago, President Xi, clad in a facemask and protective gear, ventured out of the Imperial City and out into the Beijing neighborhoods where he visited with hospital workers and posed for photos for the state-run media. Looking back, his decision to show up in person and visit with doctors and nurses probably accomplished what he intended: it gave the Chinese people hope that the leadership had not forgotten them, and that while the quarantine measures might seem draconian and overly punitive at times, the Communist Party would continue to do what it feels it must to maintain social order and protect the Chinese people.
One month later, President Xi is making his second major public visit since the outbreak began in late December. This time, he's traveling to Wuhan - the epicenter of the outbreak - in what appears to be a "Mission Accomplished" moment for the leader of the world's largest country in its battle against the novel coronavirus and Covid-19.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, Xi has left the on-the-ground work to his No. 2, Premier Li Keqiang. On Tuesday, while Chinese state media touted the visit as a sign that "victory is near", Xi stopped at Huoshenshan, one of two hastily-built "hospitals" (quarantine center/prison) built in under two weeks between January and February, during the worst of the outbreak in Wuhan.
Presumably to maximize the potency of the propaganda visit, the announcement was closely followed by numerous articles highlighting China’s growing success in containing the coronavirus, as the SCMP pointed out.
State financial news wire Xinhua published testimonials from some of the female nurses - female nurses being a heavily leaned-upon trope for the government during its propaganda war - sent to Wuhan to help alleviate the massive shortage of personnel and supplies.
In one piece of commentary, Xinhua 'explained' the importance of Xi's visit with a syllogism.
"A victory in Wuhan is a victory for Hubei, a victory in Hubei is a victory for China," the commentary said, repeating a phrase that has been used previously in official party media. "The battle continues, but victory is near," said another commentary published by Xinhua on Tuesday morning.
State media reported that during his visit to Wuhan, Xi "would inspect the prevention and control work" in the city and visit medical workers, military commanders, community workers, public security officers, grass-roots and frontline cadres, as well as volunteers, patients and residents.
Of course, some questioned whether he was ever there, though the state press released photos that showed Xi in a mask visiting what appeared to be Huoshenshan.
#China President Xi made a special trip to #Wuhan’s first pre-fab #coronavirus hospital (火神山) right off the plane, state media say, to review operations, visit with patients, rally medical workers to overcome the epidemic. pic.twitter.com/It8VHRnnLF— Eunice Yoon (@onlyyoontv) March 10, 2020
To be sure, there's little doubt that the situation in China is improving, clearly due to their draconian lockdowns that left up to half the country at one point living in zones where their movements were strictly curtailed. Recent days have seen a further downturn in the number of new cases announced by China’s National Health Commission, not that experts ever really trusted the data. Of the 19 new infections reported by the NHC early Tuesday, 17 were in Wuhan, while the remaining two were "imported" cases of the disease, or at least that would seem to fit with the new focus of the regime's propaganda: tightening restrictions on visitors from the US, Italy and other countries impacted by the virus, while complaining that the west hasn't shown China appropriate deference for its "sacrifice" in containing the outbreak...
#China ramps up steps to prevent reintroduction of #coronavirus infections from overseas travelers. Beijing airport allocates special area to process flights from affected regions/countries, state TV says. (Beijingers: Zone D at T3!)https://t.co/CPHwrCVfCb— Eunice Yoon (@onlyyoontv) March 10, 2020
...as CNBC's Eunice Yoon reminds us.