Beijing: President Xi Jinping hailed China’s success in suppressing the pandemic first discovered on its soil, even as confirmed infections globally raced toward the 30 million mark.

In a pomp-filled ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi personally conferred medals on citizens deemed to have played instrumental roles in China’s fight against the virus identified in December in Wuhan. While other nations grapple with outbreaks, China hasn’t reported a domestic infection in 22 days and Xi has increasingly turned his attention to bolstering the battered economy.

The proceedings glossed over criticism of Beijing’s early response to the pandemic, which had initially appeared to threaten the Communist Party’s legitimacy before China contained the virus. Xi made no mention of the roughly three weeks that passed in January between efforts to censor doctors’ first warnings of human-to-human transmission and China’s official acknowledgment of infection risk.

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The president seized on China’s relative success to tout the merits of one-party rule. “The CCP’s strong leadership is the most reliable backbone when a storm hits,” Xi said in a speech that stretched for over 70 minutes. “The pandemic once again proves the superiority of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.”

Xi also said China would continue to support the WHO in playing a “leading role in the global fight against the COVID-19”. “All selfishness, scapegoating and confusing right and wrong will not only hurt a country and its people, but harm people of all countries,” Xi said, in an apparent attack against the US, which has criticised both China and WHO.

China honoured about 1,500 individuals for their contribution in the virus fight, including medical and military staff. But online, Chinese people lamented the lack of mention of Li Wenliang, the Wuhan doctor who was chastised by the police for alerting his colleagues to the then little-understood virus, and later died from COVID-19. According to official numbers, there have been 4,733 virus deaths in China.