Spring arrived late this year - in early May.
But fortunately for everyone, it finally came.
As of May 8, China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus epidemic, reported no new confirmed COVID-19 cases for 35 consecutive days. The central government has since recalled the Central Guiding Team, a team sent to Hubei to strengthen its epidemic prevention and control efforts. In its place, a new task force has been formed - the liaison group of the State Council joint prevention and control mechanism against COVID-19 - to keep abreast of the situation in Hubei, relay information to the central government in a timely way, and supervise the implementation of various prevention and control measures. With these efforts in place, the epidemic prevention and control work in Hubei has transformed from a heightened state of emergency and unconventional practices to more normalized control. Wuhan and Hubei are now resuming work and production, and citizens there are returning to their daily lives in an orderly manner.
With workers returning to work and enterprises resuming production, the market, the economy, industries and society that had previously fell into stagnation are now recovering. Beijing has also lowered its emergency response to the epidemic from the highest level to the second tier. The National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which were postponed because of the epidemic, will also take place soon, making the May Day holiday a symbol of society's recovery.
Shanghai Disneyland, which will reopen on May 11, is also the first Disneyland resort in the world to resume operations since the outbreak. Investment institutions are forecasting that the Disneyland resorts in Orlando and California will only reopen in 2021 at the very earliest. Since mid-April, more than 70,000 employees in these two shuttered resorts have been furloughed. In many ways, this is a microcosm of the current American economy under the shadow of the deadly epidemic.
The panic that spread when the epidemic first broke out and the ensuing grief in the past four months starkly contrast with the relief China experienced now. Compared with people in other countries who are still living in the throes of the epidemic, the sense of calm and security in China now is somewhat surreal, and in many ways a blessing.
China has seen many significant milestones in its battle against the virus. The 100th press conference on COVID-19 chaired by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council was held on May 5. Since January 22, this conference has been held on a daily basis. In addition to the routine release of important information and the dissemination of the latest national epidemic data, 266 experts have answered 1,190 questions raised by reporters as of May 5, covering all aspects of economic and social life impacted by the epidemic.
As a platform tasked with introducing news on China to the international community, the State Council Information Office has also raised the importance of epidemic prevention and control in its agenda. It has, to date, organized 46 press conferences on the epidemic, including 10, which were held in Wuhan. To take an example, the press conference on "work resumption", which is one aspect of social recovery, covered topics on almost all related fields. This included areas such as development and reform, social security, transportation, medical and health, technological innovation, finance, market supervision, international cooperation, manufacturing, and industrial chain coordination.
Amid the gloom of the epidemic, disseminating information in a timely and transparent manner is of vital importance. Regardless of region and age, people across the nation are concerned about the epidemic. With successive reports of zero infection in each region, people have been able to see hope on the horizon.
At this crucial period with its numerous COVID-19 restrictions, only openness and transparency can inspire confidence in the people and build their strength to weather this tough time.
In the era of big data, openness and transparency that are supported by data have now become a social dividend. Although most human activities are still restricted under the grid-based pandemic management system, the use of the health QR code via social media platforms has ensured the limited and controllable flow of labor and logistics, as well as the basic operation of society. As China tries to "reboot" its society and economy, its people can now return to their daily lives via the "green" channel using their own health QR code. When CNN correspondent David Culver returned to Wuhan three months later on April 22, he saw "a city trying to awaken once again," and observed that "people are trying to get back to life." The health QR code is their "golden ticket" to a normal life.
Still, some Western politicians and media outlets are - as always - questioning the validity of China's statistics on the pandemic, and groundlessly speculating that the COVID-19 death toll in Wuhan is 10 times the figure released by Chinese authorities. They don't fully understand the process and successful experiences in China's fight against the pandemic, just as they aren't yet acquainted with the workings of the green QR code that has been deployed to guard against a potential resurgence of infections.
China's internet has rapidly developed over the past two decades, and the public infrastructure featuring informatization, digitalization, and intelligence has become one of the most significant achievements which has been keeping its society and citizens resilient and safe amid major emergencies. This system empowers the openness and transparency of Chinese society, keeping people nationwide updated with relevant information. It has also enabled the country to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic at a comparatively lower cost.
In contrast, U.S. President Trump's White House press briefings on the pandemic have become public spectacles and are often filled with arrogance and lies. The Trump administration also goes to great lengths to praise itself, discredit China, and play various "blame games". President Trump has made public calls to "liberate" states and reopen the economy, suggested injecting disinfectants into people as a means to fight the virus, demanded that journalists return their "Noble Prizes," and blamed the "fake news". These is little to be impressed with in these press conferences.
Statistics from Johns Hopkins University show that as of May 6, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. hit 1.22 million, increasing daily by over ten thousand. Meanwhile, the death toll in the U.S. has exceeded 73,000. Both these figures account for nearly one third of the total worldwide, far exceeding any other country.
The increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is accompanied only by the ongoing drama in the White House. While the Trump administration repeatedly lauds its openness and transparency, the reality is quite the opposite. This divergence has greatly crippled America's fight against the pandemic.
As the Chinese saying goes, "Peaches and plums do not talk, yet a path is formed beneath them." After a major disaster unseen in a century, the orderly resumption of its economy and society is truly the best testament to China's openness and transparency.
Yang Xinhua is deputy editor-in-chief of China Internet Information Center.