I Am Watching China Wage a ‘People’s War’ Against Coronavirus

“I Am Watching China Wage a ‘People’s War’ Against Coronavirus (65,000 Cases and Growing),” published in The National Interest on February 15, 2020

The policy of quarantining Spring Festival returnees for 14 days has extended through most of China as coronavirus surpasses 65,000 cases.

At a news conference held by the State Council Information Office, He Qinghua, deputy director of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control, announced that Beijing would be imposing 14-day quarantines on anyone who comes into the capital from anywhere. Because the origins of so many hundreds of thousands of individuals entering the city are “unclear,” Beijing has to implement such a policy to meet its own needs, He said.

Beijing is not the only city to judge such a policy as being “in accordance with its needs,” however. Shanghai, Nanjing, and many other cities have similar quarantine policies in place. In Nanjing’s central district, Gulou, for example, various “temporary party committees” have been established at the neighborhood level, and volunteers have been dispatched to guard the entry gates to make sure no one who does not live inside enters. Anyone who has returned from anywhere in the country is supposed to “submit to group observation for 14 days after arriving,” according to signs placed at the gates of many neighborhoods.

The fact that such a policy is observed at the district level is indicative of the fact that responsibility for responding to coronavirus has been somewhat decentralized. While the central government gave an order to fight a “people’s war” against the virus, and provincial-level and municipal bodies have also set policies, much of the specifics are being decided by district governments.

Trivium China, a strategic advising firm, wrote in its “tip sheet” February 13 that Xi Jinping has announced a policy of “decentralization”: “Each county and district will be given leeway to determine their own level of risk regarding the virus.” Districts, of which Nanjing has eleven, are the administrative area just below a city. Decentralization to the district level is evident in Nanjing, where Jianye’s district government issued its own program for when various businesses would be allowed to reopen, as reported by The National Interest on February 13.

The Gulou district working group on coronavirus issued fliers that could be seen affixed to some closed shops directing anyone who had transited through Wuhan to register at their sub-district office and submit to self-quarantine inside their residence for 14 days.

Yet the scope of who is to be subject to such “group observation”-style quarantines is even broader at many apartment complexes and communities in Gulou. Signs out front of those in the Jiangdong Avenue area say that everyone who returns to Nanjing from elsewhere must be subject.

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