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The Coronavirus Is a Stress Test for Xi Jinping

Can China Control an Epidemic From the Top Down?

Outside a railway station in Shanghai, February 2020 Aly Song / Reuters

On February 4, Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, prepared to address an audience of students, scholars, and businesspeople in San Diego, California. Before the ambassador could speak, a young Chinese man stood up and yelled, “Xi Jinping, step down!” Security quickly whisked the man away, and the event went on. 

A handful of similar calls for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping have popped up on the Chinese Web in recent weeks, from citizens who accuse the country’s leadership of bungling the state’s response to the deadly coronavirus that has spread throughout the country. Like the protester in San Diego these critical posts have disappeared almost immediately. 

The coronavirus outbreak is on track to become the worst humanitarian and economic crisis of Xi’s tenure, but the Chinese president is certainly not likely to resign. In fact, Xi has spent seven years in power

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