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China Postpones Key Meetings Over Virus02/24 06:28

   China announced Monday it has postponed its most important political 
meetings of the year because of the outbreak of the new virus, a significant 
step for an authoritarian government that has always kept tight control over 
its political calendar. 

   BEIJING (AP) -- China announced Monday it has postponed its most important 
political meetings of the year because of the outbreak of the new virus, a 
significant step for an authoritarian government that has always kept tight 
control over its political calendar. 

   The decision indicates the importance that President Xi Jinping places on 
the battle against the virus, which has killed more than 2,500 people and 
sickened more than 77,000 in mainland China. 

   The outbreak has posed one of the biggest political challenges to Xi's 
administration since he took control of the ruling Communist Party in 2012. The 
annual meetings of the National People's Congress and its chief advisory body 
usually begin about March 5 and run for more than two weeks, bringing thousands 
of delegates to Beijing for discussions, speeches and political ceremony. 

   The official Xinhua New Agency earlier noted that one-third of the 3,000 
delegates are provincial and municipal-level cadres with important leadership 
roles working on the front line of the battle against the epidemic.

   Xi has been wounded by the virus outbreak, but can minimize the damage by 
"moving aggressively to contain the damage and regain control by postponing" 
the meetings, said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London's 
School of Oriental and African Studies. 

   Because the National People's Congress has no real power, there is less 
reason to convene it when the party is restricting movement of people and 
banning large gatherings, he said. Postponing the meetings will "reduce the 
risk of anyone using either occasion to speak out of line. Xi's move is an 
aggressive defensive act, and thus more pragmatic than desperate, though he 
must have felt a need to be defensive," Tsang said. 


(KR)

 
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