Chinese President Xi Jinping called U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday to say China was “fully confident and capable” of defeating the deadly coronavirus outbreak while cautioning Washington to respond “reasonably” to the epidemic.
China was gradually achieving results and was confident it could defeat the epidemic with no long-term consequences for economic development, Xi told President Donald Trump in the telephone call, according to Reuters.
The two spoke as it was confirmed the virus death toll has now reached almost 640 people, including a doctor who sounded the alarm only to be threatened by police.
The call to the White House, which Beijing has accused of scaremongering over the epidemic, came as China’s central bank vowed to step up support for the economy to cushion the blow of the outbreak.
State media reported Xi insisted “the long-term trend of China’s economic development for the better will not change” because of the virus.
The outbreak, which is believed to have originated in central China late last year, has now infected at least 31,000 people and caused 636 deaths, mostly within China.
The general secretary of the Communist Party of China called the fight to contain the virus a “people’s war” and told Trump that China has implemented “nationwide mobilisation, comprehensive deployment and rapid response” along with “the strictest prevention and control measures” against the virus.
Xi also urged the U.S. to act “reasonably” in response to the outbreak, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The diplomatic exchange between the two leaders came within hours of the death of a whistleblowing Chinese doctor who tried to warn about the viral outbreak that has sparked an unprecedented level of public anger and grief in China.
Chinese doctor #LiWenliang, one of the eight “whistleblowers” who tried to warn other medics of the coronavirus outbreak but were reprimanded by local police, died from #coronavirus at 2:58 am Friday, the hospital where he received treatment announced. https://t.co/eCrNha7Nn1 pic.twitter.com/WYwDxZFBej
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) February 6, 2020
Dr. Li Wenliang, 34, died after contracting the virus while treating patients in Wuhan, as Breitbart News reported.
Several Chinese state media outlets initially reported his death of on Thursday, only to delete their reports a few hours later and publish new bulletins indicating he remained in critical condition at Wuhan Central Hospital.
No explanation was offered for why the death of Li, who was arrested for “spreading rumors” after providing one of the earliest warnings about the true danger of the coronavirus epidemic, was incorrectly reported by state-controlled media.
Foreign Policy anointed Li the “first virus martyr” when news of his death was published, noting a large-scale scrubbing of news and social media posts about him commenced immediately.
Last December Li sent a message to fellow medics warning of a virus he thought looked like Sars – another deadly coronavrius, but he was told by police to “stop making false comments” and was investigated for “spreading rumours.”
After Li’s death was confirmed early Friday, he was lionised as a hero on social media, while officials were vilified for letting the epidemic spiral into a national health crisis instead of listening to the doctor.
AFP reports many also used the occasion to demand more liberties in the oppressive Communist Party-ruled country, with the hashtags “I want freedom of speech” and “we demand freedom of speech” appearing on Twitter-like Weibo before being censored.
“Chinese people are only allowed one kind of freedom, and that is the freedom given by the country and the Communist Party,” commented one Weibo user.
“But clearly it is us who should be the masters of this country’s laws.”