China's National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention begins operation, expanding functions from disease prevention to drafting relevant policies
Published: May 13, 2021 10:16 AM


The National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention starts operating on Thursday, signaling that China's disease control authorities' role will expand to more areas including promoting public health and drafting disease prevention policies, a major step in enhancing the nation's post-epidemic health governance.

Wang Hesheng, a deputy head of the National Health Commission, who played a vital role in combating the COVID-19 epidemic in Central China's Hubei Province last year, will lead the bureau, according to a public announcement on April 28. 

Wang was appointed as a standing committee member of the Communist Party of China Hubei Provincial Committee in February 2020 amid a reshuffle of senior officials in the province due to their incompetence in handling epidemic prevention and control work. 

The administrative level of the newly established bureau is believed to be higher than China's CDC, as the bureau, which is a vice ministerial-level under the National Health Commission, will take on the responsibility of promoting public health in a comprehensive manner and carrying out the work of drafting infectious disease control policies, according to analysts and media reports.  

"We should raise the administrative level of China's prevention and control authorities," said Zhong Nanshan, China's top epidemiologist, in 2020 during the country's top-down anti-epidemic fight that reflects some major shortfalls in crisis-response and epidemic handling.

Currently, China's CDC is a technical department under the National Health Commission, which has not gained enough attention, Zhong was quoted as saying in media reports. In countries like the US, the CDC can report to the central authority without reporting to different levels, and in special situations, it can even report directly to the public. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping also called in June 2020 for efforts to develop a strong public health system by improving early warning and response mechanisms and comprehensively enhancing the capacity for epidemic prevention, control and treatment. 

Like the establishment of the national rural revitalization bureau, the unveiling of the national disease and control bureau aims to meet the requirements of future epidemic prevention and control work, as China has now entered the regular anti-epidemic work stage in fending off risks of imported cases, experts said. 

While the new bureau will take on the responsibility of drafting policies on anti-epidemic work, Zhong also said in a recent interview that he hopes the bureau will have two major functions - reporting emergencies directly to the central government and supervising local governments and administrative institutions. 

Global Times