COMMENTARY: Coronavirus outbreak tests China’s president Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping is surely having the worst 2020 of any major international leader to date.

Much of this can be put down to the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Wuhan and Xi’s belated attempts to show he was in charge after an awkward start during which he was almost invisible and his regime rounded up people who dared even mention that there was a problem.

The response to the coronavirus has already caused political problems in Japan, Italy and Iran over whether enough was done soon enough.

Now come the knock-off effects. As energy prices collapse, it will be especially harmful to resource-based economies such as Russia and Saudi Arabia and particularly Venezuela, which is already flat on its back economically and politically.

As has already been foreshadowed by remarks by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, there will be consequences for Canada, too. Like Morneau, Alberta Premier Jason Kenny had nothing to do with the virus, but he may end up paying dearly for the crisis because of the havoc it will cause to the province’s already badly stressed economy.

But the leader who is arguably in the trickiest situation at the moment is China’s Xi. He and his dictatorship have been whacked by accusations at home and abroad that his Communist government had for weeks suppressed evidence of the gravity of the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Wuhan from its people and the world and had arrested those who tried to speak the truth. And that this makes China partially responsible for a virus that has already infected more than 100,000 people.

On Friday, Xi was hit with the double whammy that Taiwan’s largest China-friendly party — the venerable Kuomintang — had given up its longstanding policy of agreeing with the mainland on a One China stance. This follows by a couple of months a vote in Taiwan that strongly backed a government that strongly repudiates reunification China.

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