BEIJING — It took thousands of infections and scores of deaths from a mysterious virus for China’s authoritarian leader to publicly say what had become glaringly obvious to many in recent weeks: The country is facing a grave public health crisis.
北京——一场导致数千人感染、数十人死亡的神秘病毒传播,终于让中国的威权领导人公开说出最近几周对许多人来说已是显而易见的事实:中国正面临一场严重的公共卫生危机。
After his declaration, the leader, Xi Jinping, put China on a virtual war footing to cope with the unfolding epidemic of the coronavirus. He convened an extraordinary session of the Communist Party’s top political body, issuing orders for handling the crisis with the crisp, somber stoicism of a field marshal.
公开表态后,中国领导人习近平实际上已将中国置于一种战争状态,以应对正在蔓延的冠状病毒疫情。他召开了中国共产党最高政治机构的特别会议,用大元帅般的干练和冷峻姿态下达着处理危机的命令。
“We’re sure to be able to win in this battle,” he proclaimed on Saturday before his six grim-faced colleagues on the party’s Politburo Standing Committee.
“我们一定能打赢疫情防控阻击战,”上周六的中共中央政治局常委会上,他在六名表情严肃的同事面前宣告。
Compared to the very low bar set by the Chinese leadership’s secrecy and inaction during the SARS epidemic in 2002 and 2003, Mr. Xi has responded with speed and alacrity to the latest health emergency, a pneumonialike virus that at last official count has killed at least 80, sickened thousands in China and spread around the world.
与中国领导人在2002和2003年SARS暴发期间的保密和不作为这个非常低的标准相比,习近平对最新的这起公共卫生突发事件的响应已经足够迅捷而主动,据官方最近的统计数字,这种能引起类肺炎症状的病毒已经导致至少80人殒命、使中国的数千人患病,并已在世界各地传播
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But there are also signs that the government, especially at the regional level in Hubei Province, the source of the outbreak, was slow to recognize the danger and is continuing to mishandle the crisis. Some public health experts have asked whether the sweeping travel restrictions that have been imposed are leaving people without access to medical care, while many Chinese remain unconvinced the government is being completely forthcoming about the toll of the disease.
但也有迹象表明,政府——尤其是疫情暴发地湖北省的地市级政府——未能及时认识到病毒的危险,并且至今仍未妥善处理危机。一些公共卫生专家已经在问,已采取的全面出行限制措施是否正在让人们无法获得医疗服务,同时,许多中国人仍不相信政府在完全如实地公布这种疾病的致死人数。
“Substantively, the response this time is more or less the same,” said Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California. “Local officials downplayed the outbreak at the initial, but crucial, stage of the outbreak. The media was muzzled. The public was kept in the dark. As a result, valuable time was lost.”
“这次的反应实际上(与上次的)差不多,”加州克莱蒙特麦肯纳学院(Claremont McKenna College)的政治学教授裴敏欣说。“地方官员在暴发初期的关键阶段淡化了疫情。媒体被压制。公众被蒙在鼓里。结果,宝贵的时间被浪费了。”
The turnaround from complacency to nationwide mobilization typifies how China can respond to unexpected crisis like a lumbering giant, reluctant to stir, but then capable of shattering urgency. It represents both sides of the authoritarian political bargain under Mr. Xi.
从苟且将就到全国动员的转变,是中国如何应对突发危机的典型体现,中国像一个行动缓慢吃力的巨人,不愿意动,但一旦动起来又可以有着惊人的紧迫性。这让人看到了习近平领导下的威权政治约定的两面性。
A fear of upsetting the party’s protocols and leaders’ desire for unruffled stability can deter even officials who want to do well by the public. Conversely, the government can operate with brutal efficiency when it wants.
由于害怕打破党内的规矩,招惹渴望平稳的领导人,连想要为公众造福的官员都会感到踌躇。反过来,当政府想做事时,它能以冷酷的高效工作。
It was only after a brief written statement under Mr. Xi’s name on Jan. 20, when he was touring a military base and shopping exposition in Yunnan Province, that the vast Chinese state bureaucracy began to shudder into action.
直到1月20日以习近平的名义发布的一份简短书面公告后,中国庞大的国家官僚机构才开始剧烈行动起来。习当时还在云南视察一个军事基地和购物博览会。
医疗急救人员上周在转移一名据信为香港首例的武汉冠状病毒病患。
医疗急救人员上周在转移一名据信为香港首例的武汉冠状病毒病患。 Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times
Officials then quickly acknowledged the dangers of the coronavirus and ordered drastic measures to stop the spread — perhaps, experts said, belatedly — including the lockdown of much of the province where the epidemic emerged, penning in 56 million people. The government also ordered the construction of two hospitals in Wuhan to deal exclusively with patients afflicted with the coronavirus, which are expected to open within days, not months or years.
自那以后,官员们迅速承认了冠状病毒的危险性,并下令采取严厉措施阻止病毒的传播——专家们说,这可能来得太晚了——包括封锁了疫情暴发省份的大部分地区,把5600万人关在了里边。政府还下令在武汉建设两家专门治疗冠状病毒患者的医院,它们预计将在几天——而不是几个月或几年——内投入使用。
“The thing about China is that they can mobilize agencies and resources faster than anybody else can,” said Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney and author of “Xi Jinping: The Backlash.” “The other side is that they can conceal things.”
“中国的特点是,他们能以比任何人都快的速度动员机构、调度资源,”著有《反习》(Xi Jinping: The Backlash,暂译)一书的悉尼洛伊研究所(Lowy Institute)高级研究员马利德(Richard McGregor)说。“而他们的另一面是会遮遮掩掩。”
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“In China there is no independent entity that can get on the front foot and disseminate information,” he added.
“在中国,没有一个独立的实体能抢先一步传播信息,”他补充说。
From a localized medical mystery a few weeks ago, the coronavirus has erupted as one of the most complex and unpredictable tests for Mr. Xi since he came to power more than seven years ago. Over that time, he has by some measures established himself as the most formidable Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
冠状病毒几周前还只是一个地方性的医疗神秘事件,如今已经暴发为习近平上台七年多以来所面临的最复杂、最不可预测的考验之一。上台后的几年里,习近平已在某种程度上把自己确立为自毛泽东以来最令人敬畏的中国领导人。
The epidemic and the effectiveness of the government’s response remain subject to many unknowns, but the outbreak comes at a time when Mr. Xi has already been facing quiet whispers about his political acumen. In the past year, he has experienced repeated setbacks on some of the most vital issues on his agenda.
虽然疫情以及政府应对措施的有效性仍取决于许多未知因素,但此次疫情暴发时,习近平已面临着人们对他政治智慧的悄悄议论。在过去的一年里,他在自己议程中一些最重要的问题上屡次受挫。
上周,北京的一座拥挤的火车站。中国政府在中部一些地区实施了出行限制。
上周,北京的一座拥挤的火车站。中国政府在中部一些地区实施了出行限制。 Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Protests against China’s tightening grip continue to convulse Hong Kong. Rancor with Washington was only partly eased by a trade deal that some said required China to promise too many concessions. Two weeks ago, voters in Taiwan, the island democracy that Mr. Xi has made clear should join a greater China, resoundingly re-elected a president despised by Beijing.
反对中央政府收紧控制的抗议活动继续撼动香港。最近达成的贸易协议只是部分缓解了与华盛顿的敌意,而一些人认为中国在协议中做出了太多的让步。两周前,台湾选民以一边倒的优势让北京不喜欢的总统胜选连任,而习近平已明确表示,台湾这个民主岛屿应该回到大中华的怀抱。
Mr. Xi’s sheer dominance, according to several experts and political insiders, may be contributing to his problems by hampering internal debate that could help avoid misjudgments. Beijing, for example, has underestimated the staying power of the protesters in Hong Kong and the public support behind them.
一些专家和政治圈内人士认为,习近平的绝对统治地位阻碍了有助于避免误判的内部辩论,也许加剧了他的问题。例如,北京低估了香港抗议者的持久力以及他们背后的公众支持。
“It’s a paradox,” said Rong Jian, an independent scholar of Chinese politics in Beijing. “It’s precisely because Xi is so powerful that policy problems often arise — nobody dares disagree, and problems are spotted too late.”
“这是一个悖论,”在北京研究中国政治的独立学者荣剑说。“正是因为习近平的权力如此之大,政策问题才经常出现——没有人敢不同意,而且问题发现得太晚。”
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While state and local officials have been criticized, the public health system has been credited with responding effectively, particularly compared to the response to the SARS crisis.
虽然中央政府和地方政府的官员们受到了批评,但中国的公共卫生系统在有效应对上却受到了表扬,尤其是与上次应对SARS危机相比。
In that case, officials covered up the extent of the viral outbreak for months, almost certainly abetting its spread and exacerbating the death toll, which reached nearly 800.
在SARS事件中,官员们将病毒暴发的范围隐瞒了好几个月,几乎可以肯定助长了病毒的传播,增加了死亡人数,有近800人因SARS死亡。
This time, even as officials in Wuhan said nothing publicly, government scientists shared information with the World Health Organization on the last day of 2019, isolated the virus, and posted details about it on an international database 10 days later.
这次,即使在武汉官员尚未公开说出时,政府的科学家们已在2019年的最后一天与世界卫生组织分享了信息,分离了病毒,并在10天后将病毒的有关细节在一个国际数据库上发布出来。
That allowed experts from around the world to quickly conclude that the new coronavirus, like the one from SARS, had very likely originated in bats and made the leap to humans through infection of another mammal in a market in Wuhan.
这让来自世界各地的专家们很快得出结论:这种新型冠状病毒与SARS病毒一样,很可能最初来自蝙蝠,并通过在武汉的一个市场上感染另一种哺乳动物后,突然传到人类身上。
1月,武汉一家医院外的医护人员。中国在该地区部署了医学专家,以应对病毒疫情。
1月,武汉一家医院外的医护人员。中国在该地区部署了医学专家,以应对病毒疫情。 Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The Lancet, one of the leading medical journals, praised China’s handling of the outbreak so far in an editorial.
最重要的医学杂志之一《柳叶刀》在一篇社论赞扬了中国迄今为止处理疫情的做法。
“The lessons from the SARS epidemic — where China was insufficiently prepared to implement infection control practices — have been successfully learned,” it wrote. “By most accounts, Chinese authorities are meeting international standards and isolating suspected cases and contacts, developing diagnostic and treatment procedures, and implementing public education campaigns.”
“SARS流行时,中国在实施感染控制措施方面准备不足。这次,中国已成功地汲取了SARS的教训,”社论写道。“据大多数报道,中国的有关部门正在隔离疑似病例和接触者、制定诊断和治疗程序以及开展公共教育活动方面达到国际标准。”
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The journal went on to emphasize that the ultimate success of the response would “depend on maintaining trust between the authorities and the local population.”
《柳叶刀》接下来强调,应对措施的成败最终将“取决于维持当局与当地民众之间的信任”。
Mr. Xi’s government, despite its call to arms, may have already undercut that trust.
习近平的政府虽然发出了战斗号召,但可能已经削弱了这种信任。
On the local level in Wuhan, people have vented anger and frustration, which is percolating on social media despite censorship. In widely circulated, and then censored, comments, a senior journalist with The Hubei Daily, the province’s main party newspaper, called for a change of leadership in Wuhan.
在武汉当地,人们已在发泄愤怒和不满,尽管网上有审查,这种情绪仍在社交媒体上逐渐流传。湖北省主要党报《湖北日报》的一名高级记者呼吁撤换武汉领导,他的这些话一度在网上广泛流传,后来遭到审查。
“With this extraordinarily grim situation worsening and expanding by the day, those currently in office lack that commanding leadership,” the journalist, Zhang Ouya, wrote on Sina.com Weibo, a popular Chinese social media service.
“但据当前日益严重并继续扩大的异常严峻的形势,当前的台上者不具这样的领导指挥力,”记者张欧亚在新浪微博上写道。
There is evidence, too, that the local authorities kept a lid on the crisis in the first days of January so as not to upset the cheerful tone for a provincial legislative session that is a highlight of the local political cycle.
也有证据表明,地方当局在1月的最初几天压住了对这场危机的报道,以免搅乱省人民代表大会召开会议时的乐观基调,该会议是地方政治周期的一个重点。
“This year will be a major landmark year,” Wang Xiaodong, the provincial governor, told the legislative members. “Let us unite even more closely around the party central leadership with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core.”
“今年是具有重要里程碑意义的一年,”省长王晓东对省人大代表们说。“让我们更加紧密团结在以习近平同志为核心的党中央周围。”
周日,武汉一条几乎空无一人的马路。
周日,武汉一条几乎空无一人的马路。 Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. Wang is now widely accused of underplaying the virus threat.
现在,人们普遍指责王晓东淡化了病毒的威胁。
“China is a much more decentralized place than it appears,” said David Cowhig, a former American diplomat who served 10 years in China and monitored health and science issues.
“中国实际上比看上去要分散许多,”前美国外交官高大伟(David Cowhig)说,他曾在中国工作过十年,并观察了健康和科学方面的问题。
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“Local officials have great discretion; China is a coalition of ‘little’ Big Brothers,” he said. “Xi realizes this and is trying to re-centralize China.”
“地方官员有很大的自主权;中国是一个许多‘小’老大哥组成的联合政府,”他说。“习近平意识到了这一点,他试图重新集中中国的权力。”
Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies China, said that the centralization of power since the SARS crisis did not appear to have strengthened expertise at the local level or the willingness of underequipped regional hospitals to report.
美国对外关系委员会(Council on Foreign Relations)研究中国的全球卫生问题高级研究员黄严忠说,SARS危机以来的权力集中,似乎并没有增强地方层面的专业技能,也没有提升设备落后地方医院报告疫情的意愿。
“I think the central health authorities are trying to be more transparent,” he said, “but the local government remains loath to share disease related information in a timely and accurate manner.”
“我觉得,中央卫生部门正在努力提高透明度,”他说,“但地方政府对及时、准确地分享与疾病相关的信息仍有抵触情绪。”
Not all the blame can fall on the officials in Wuhan.
并不是所有的指责都落在了武汉官员身上。
The central authorities still control the political and propaganda apparatus, which has sought to minimize the severity of the crisis. Before the standing committee’s meeting on Saturday, Mr. Xi and other senior officials went about their business as if there were no crisis, appearing at a banquet on Thursday in the Great Hall of the People to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
中央政府仍然控制着政治和宣传机器,这些机构都试图淡化危机的严重程度。在上周六召开政治局常委会之前,习近平和其他高级官员的行动一如往常,仿佛完全不存在危机,他们于上周四在人民大会堂举行了庆祝农历新年的招待会。
When he did speak, Mr. Xi emphasized the need for preserving public stability.
等到终于公开表态时,习近平强调了维护社会稳定的必要性。
The phrase alludes to the fear of popular unrest boiling over, which is, as ever, the party state’s highest priority. It could become a reality if the epidemic, as predicted, inflicts sustained hardship on the economy and people’s livelihood.
这种说法暗指对民间动乱暴发的担忧,而这仍是这个党国的最高优先事项。如果疫情像预计的那样,给经济和民生带来持续困难的话,这种现实有可能出现。
“The truth is in a public-health emergency; it’s not just the medical professionals who matter,” Mr. McGregor said. “It’s the management of it in the government and in the public that matters, too. It’s hard to argue that they’ve done that well.”
“实际情况是,在公共卫生突发事件中,重要的不只是医疗专业人员,”马利德说。“政府和公众对事件的管理也很重要。很难说他们在这方面做得很好。”