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Political carnage of China's coronavirus outbreak is just beginning

Xi Jinping will emerge weakened from crisis thanks to slow government response

| China
Xi Jinping gestures near the slogan "Race against time, Fight the Virus" during an inspection of the center for disease control and prevention in Beijing on Feb 10: Xi could double down on purges and social control.   © Xinhua/AP

Official heads have finally started to roll now the outbreak of the coronavirus in China has claimed more than a thousand lives and shows no signs of abating. The Chinese Communist Party fired the party chiefs of Hubei province and Wuhan municipality on February 13, putting local officials on notice that it would no longer tolerate incompetence in handling the worst public health crisis since the SARS epidemic 17 years ago.

As the CCP leadership habitually treats its local officials as dispensable instruments of rule, regardless of their loyalty or competence, few should be surprised by the unceremonious departure of these two local party chiefs. Their only offense appeared to be their faithful compliance with Beijing's policy of suppressing freedom of expression in the service of the party's political monopoly.

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