How China’s Coronavirus Epidemic Could Threaten Xi’s Legitimacy

How China’s Coronavirus Epidemic Could Threaten Xi’s Legitimacy
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, center, attends a meeting with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Jan. 18, 2020 (Photo by Nyein Chan Naing for European Pressphoto Agency via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

The death of a Chinese doctor who was silenced by authorities for sounding the alarm about the coronavirus has triggered a level of public anger toward the government that is rare in China. After he tried to warn of an outbreak in December, Li Wenliang succumbed to the virus last week. The fierce public outcry over his death raises the possibility that the epidemic could have a lasting impact on the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party and its powerful leader, Xi Jinping.

Since millions remain confined to their homes in China because of the epidemic, people staged what The New York Times called “an online revolt” over Li’s death. A torrent of angry messages appeared on the popular social media app WeChat, overwhelming China’s internet censors.

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