On what may be the most watched television show on earth, the Spring Festival Gala, the Chinese government on Friday cheered on Wuhan and praised the country’s leader, Xi Jinping.
Each year, on the eve of the Lunar New Year, the state broadcaster China Central Television shows the gala, a four-hour marathon of speeches, skits and song and dance, all conducted at a stately pace to accommodate a graying audience. Watching the gala while making dumplings — or falling asleep in front of it — is a tradition for many families across the country.
On Friday night’s broadcast, China’s propaganda minders addressed the coronavirus outbreak head on. During the first half of the broadcast, six prominent CCTV anchors stood onstage and praised the instructions of Mr. Xi and the Communist Party.
They showed images of doctors and nurses treating patients, of trucks of supplies festooned with banners that said, roughly translated, “Go, Wuhan!”
They cited the example of Wang Qiang, the Chinese tennis player who earlier on Friday upset Serena Williams in the Australian Open. “As long as we’re not afraid and dare to confront challenges,” said Hai Xia, a longtime CCTV anchor, “we will win.”
Then they declared that the fight against the coronavirus was open, transparent and a testament to the competence of the government. Ms. Hai cited “the most transparent information disclosure, the strong leadership of the party’s Central Committee, the efforts of the whole nation.”
By featuring the response on the gala, the government gave its message a broad platform. The anchors ended their presentation with their own cheer: “Go, Wuhan!”
Reporting was contributed by Chris Buckley, Javier Hernández, Vivian Wang, Austin Ramzy, Elaine Yu, Tiffany May, Carlos Tejada, Russell Goldman, Gillian Wong, Paulina Villegas, Steven Lee Myers, Denise Grady, Karen Zraick, Roni Caryn Rabin, Carl Zimmer, Rick Gladstone, Yonette Joseph, Bhadra Sharma, Alexandra Stevenson, Adam Nossiter and Aurelien Breeden. Research was contributed by Amber Wang, Albee Zhang, Claire Fu, Elsie Chen, Yiwei Wang and Zoe Mou.