This column contains a discussion on China’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, followed by a translation of “Taking Strategic Initiative to Prevent and Defuse Major Risks,” an essay providing a detailed overview of President Xi Jinping’s key 2019 risk management speeches, by Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission Secretary-General Chen Yixin.
Chinese leaders are in crisis response mode. The novel coronavirus COVID-19 emerged from one of China’s notorious wildlife markets in December, triggering an outbreak that has spread to more than 25 countries across the globe. It is difficult to assess the true scale of the outbreak. Hospitals in Wuhan—the city in central China where the virus first emerged—do not have enough testing kits to confirm all suspected cases, and Beijing has strong incentives to manipulate the numbers to give the impression that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has the crisis under control.
According to Beijing’s latest official statistics, there are more than 70,000 confirmed cases in China so far and more than 2,000 deaths. The outbreak—and the Chinese government’s initial attempts to cover it up—has turned China into a global pariah. The world’s major economies have temporarily cut their physical links to China, and it is not at all clear when cross-border travel and commerce will resume. By any measure, this is a crisis of epic proportions—one that is raising questions about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s political future. A close analysis of China’s crisis response efforts thus far suggests that while multiple heads will roll, it is highly unlikely that Xi’s will be among them.
Domestically, the outbreak presents a major threat to the CCP and Xi Jinping in particular. It undermines the argument that China’s single-party authoritarian governance model is the ideal system for China and can provide a better quality of life for its citizens than any potential alternatives, particularly liberal democracy. Chinese citizens are outraged over the fact that when front-line doctors first tried to inform Chinese medical communities about the virus in late December 2019, they were reprimanded by the local police for spreading rumors. One of those thwarted whistleblowers—Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang—later contracted the virus and died. His death triggered a wave of public anger, much of it directed against Beijing’s authoritarian press controls. Some citizens even called for Beijing to implement Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which claims Chinese citizens should “enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” The party, however, views information control as a critical lever for maintaining power, without which the ruling regime could fall. Clearly, this ongoing public health crisis constitutes a serious political threat.
In light of these rising tensions, Beijing has dispatched Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission Secretary-General Chen Yixin to Wuhan. This is a telling move. The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission is the party organization with direct authority over both the Chinese police and China’s judicial system. Chen Yixin also appears to be a loyal Xi Jinping protégé. Before Xi became China’s top leader, they worked together in Zhejiang province, where Xi served as the provincial party secretary—the local party boss—from 2002 to 2007. During that time, Xi promoted Chen Yixin from deputy director to deputy secretary-general of the provincial party committee.
In 2015, Xi Jinping—by that time China’s top leader—brought Chen Yixin to Beijing to serve under him again, this time on the Central Leading Small Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, the powerful coalition of party cadres implementing President Xi’s reform agenda under Xi’s direct leadership. What many observers may not realize is that Chen Yixin also served as a key messenger for President Xi’s 2019 orders to prepare for potential black swan, or unpredictable crisis, events. That same cadre who conveyed Xi’s warnings about potential future crises in 2019 is the boss’s top choice for coronavirus cleanup in 2020, foretelling how President Xi can inoculate himself from the worst of the coronavirus political fallout.
As things currently stand, Chinese citizens could easily pin the blame for the coronavirus crisis on President Xi Jinping himself. Under his leadership, the CCP has recentralized top-down political control over the provinces and the Chinese bureaucracy. Whereas his predecessors experimented with different mechanisms for delegating authority to regional officials and lower-level bureaucrats, President Xi has never trusted China’s vast administrative state. Under his leadership, administrative actions increasingly require Beijing’s signoff. In a country with more than 1.4 billion people, that often leads to paralysis. Strikingly, Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang suggested that centralized control structure directly contributed to the outbreak. When explaining why the local government initially withheld information about the outbreak from the Chinese public, the mayor told China’s main state-run news agency: “As a local government official, after I get this kind of information I still have to wait for authorization before I can release it.” This statement was a brazen attempt to suggest that Chinese leaders in Beijing—and the centralized system that they have constructed—were to blame for the initial cover-up.
Beijing, however, is already taking action to redirect the blame back down to Wuhan. Chinese leaders are ousting local-level officials and bringing in loyal replacements from other regions—a time-honored tradition in political cleanup operations of this nature in China. President Xi also has an invaluable ace up his sleeve that will most likely insulate him from any real political fallout: He can claim that he predicted this crisis more than a year ago and ordered officials at all levels to prepare for it. As noted above, President Xi kicked off 2019 with a series of speeches ordering the entire Chinese political system to prepare for black swans and gray rhinos—the latter being predictable risks that are often ignored because one never knows when they might emerge. The need to prepare for black swan and gray rhino events was a key theme of Xi’s speeches throughout 2019. With the coronavirus outbreak fitting the very definition of a black swan event, President Xi now appears prescient; he can claim the outbreak would never have reached such disastrous levels if lower-level officials had more faithfully carried out his orders.
To understand how the party’s coronavirus cleanup operation is likely to play out—and the tactics that President Xi will likely deploy behind closed doors in Beijing—it is worth reviewing Xi’s 2019 warnings in detail. Unfortunately, the party did not publicize transcripts of those speeches. The best publicly available analysis comes from Chen Yixin. Last year, Chen Yixin published an essay on Xi Jinping’s risk management speeches in Study Times, the CCP journal used to send leadership dictates throughout the party’s rank and file. The same essay also appeared in Qiushi, the CCP Central Party Committee journal that serves as the other mouthpiece transmitting party dictates, particularly those relating to political theory. In the essay—“Taking Strategic Initiative to Prevent and Defuse Major Risks”—Chen Yixin provides a detailed overview of President Xi’s key 2019 risk management speeches and identifies the key points that cadres at all levels should faithfully study and implement in order to carry out the top leader’s directives. It provides a fascinating take on a powerful argument that President Xi can use to emerge unscathed from the coronavirus crisis, as well as insights into the crisis management blueprint that the party is already following.
Provided below is a full English translation of the essay to give Western audiences the opportunity to read for themselves how the cadre that was just dispatched to guide coronavirus cleanup in Wuhan conveyed Xi’s risk management directives down through the party hierarchy last year. The authors’ first impression of the essay in 2019 was that it made the ruling regime appear paranoid and insecure. Chen Yixin warns in the essay that the party faces massive political risks on every front, any of which could trigger regime-ending contagion effects. Yet, the directives for risk management are at times so vague that it would be nearly impossible for lower-level officials to interpret what exactly they are to do. Chen Yixin calls for party cadres to do everything in their power to spot latent risks before they emerge, stating that they must be able to “hear the rustle of the leaves and grass when a deer is passing through, know the tiger is coming as soon as the wind hisses, have the ability to forecast entire trends from a single variable just like knowing that autumn is coming as soon as one leaf changes color.” He also writes that “see things early, move quickly” is a key principle for successful risk management.
Based on that criteria, Wuhan officials have failed. From a 2020 vantage point, the black swan campaign that initially appeared to betray the party’s paranoia turns out to be a masterful political stroke: It was broad enough, frantic enough, and vague enough to give Xi political cover for anything that followed. Now, China is facing the coronavirus, and Xi can easily claim he anticipated this crisis and ordered party cadres and government officials at all levels to prepare for it well in advance.
From a U.S. perspective, it is also important to note that in Chen Yixin’s view—and thus in Xi’s view—foreign actors play a predominantly harmful role. The essay repeatedly references “hostile foreign forces,” claiming that foreign actors are always seeking to either instigate political risks within China or leverage existing risks to “infiltrate” China and undermine the ruling regime. That is the reason Beijing is keeping foreign disease experts at arm’s length in its coronavirus crisis response. The essay also emphasizes the importance of directly controlling public opinion, maintaining strict information control—particularly on the internet—and preventing crosscutting linkages. Those elements are prevalent in Beijing’s crisis response measures as well. Most recently, law enforcement officials are warning Wuhan hospitals to stop sharing information about the number of cases that they are seeing, and China’s cyberspace regulator is ramping up its efforts to police websites and social media accounts to maintain a “good online atmosphere.” Foreign observers should expect those two principles—keeping foreigners out and withholding information to control domestic public opinion—to continue throughout China’s coronavirus crisis response.
Beijing’s cleanup effort is currently focused on demonstrating that China’s top leaders have the situation under control and there is no reason to panic. At some point, that campaign will likely expand to include a propaganda effort demonstrating that this could have all been avoided if lower-level officials had more faithfully carried out President Xi’s orders. The essay below demonstrates just how much leverage Xi has to make that play once the dust begins to settle.
Melanie Hart is a senior fellow and the director of China Policy at the Center for American Progress. Jordan Link is the China policy analyst for National Security and International Policy at the Center.
Translation: “Taking Strategic Initiative to Prevent and Defuse Major Risks”
By Chen Yixin, secretary-general, Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission
Translated by Melanie Hart, Jordan Link, and Ngor Luong
Source: Qiushi Journal Online, the journal of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, published the below essay under Chen Yixin’s byline on June 19, 2019, at http://cpc.people.com.cn/n1/2019/0619/c64102-31168768.html. Chen Yixin serves as the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission secretary-general. According to the Qiushi posting, the original source is the Study Times, the journal of the National Academy of Governance at the CCP Central Party School under the CCP Central Committee.
Deeply study and thoroughly comprehend General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important discourse on guarding against and defusing major risks, persisting in the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, adhering to the comprehensive national security concept, promoting a fighting spirit, conducting deep research into the patterns of risk development, paying attention to fighting tactics, mastering the strategic initiative for preventing and resolving risks, fighting an effective strategic battle to prevent and resolve major risks, and making every effort to safeguard national political security and overall social stability.
Adhere to bottom-line thinking; prevent and resolve major risks—this is the bugle horn of battle General Secretary Xi Jinping is sounding for the entire Party. We must thoroughly study and implement the spirit of the important speeches General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered at the Central Political and Legal Work Conference and the provincial-level leading cadre workshop on adhering to bottom-line thinking and preventing and defusing major risks. [We must] persist in the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, adhere to a comprehensive national security concept, promote a fighting spirit, fight an effective strategic battle to prevent and resolve major risks, and strive to launch a new phase in building a safe and secure China.
Comprehend new thinking: Deeply study and thoroughly comprehend the “10 fundamental insights” in General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important discourse on preventing and resolving major risks.
Since the 18th Party Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping has issued a series of important speeches on why to guard against and defuse major risks, which major risks to prevent and defuse, and how to prevent and defuse major risks. In particular, [General Secretary Xi Jinping] gave major speeches at the Central Political and Legal Work Conference and the provincial- and ministerial-level leading cadre specialized seminar on adhering to bottom-line thinking and putting all efforts into preventing and defusing major risks. [These speeches] give a systematic explanation of the major risks faced by the Party and the country under new circumstances, profoundly answer questions about the direction of major risks, enrich and contribute to the development of important thinking on preventing and defusing major risks, and provide basic guidelines for preventing and defusing major risks. In particular, the 10 fundamental insights demand our deep study and comprehension.
Enhance the hardship consciousness of guarding against and defusing major risks. Communist Party cadres’ hardship consciousness is a consciousness that worries about the Party, worries about the nation, worries about the people; this is a responsibility; even more, it is a duty. Our Party was born from hardship, grew in hardship, and expanded in hardship; it came into being by facing every kind of risk and challenge. Our nation’s development has entered the best period in history; the more one enters a period of great achievement, the more one must move with caution as if walking on thin ice, the more one must think of danger in times of safety. [We] absolutely cannot make strategic mistakes [or] subversive errors. Consistency is required to strengthen hardship consciousness and guard against major risks and challenges.
The strategic importance of guarding against and defusing major risks. Strengthening hardship consciousness and thinking of danger in times of safety is a major principle that our Party must adhere to in governing the country. Achieving a great dream will require undertaking many great struggles with new historical characteristics, meeting great challenges, resisting great risks, overcoming great resistance, and resolving great contradictions.
The mission of guarding against and defusing major risks. The risks we face include domestic economic, political, ideological, and social risks as well as risks that arise from the natural world; they also include international economic, political, and military risks, etc. To guard against and defuse major risks, the most important task is to protect the Party’s political security and the security of the national socialist system as the core of national political security.
Policy approach for guarding against and defusing major risks. Preventing and defusing major risks requires upholding a fundamental policy of “stable general situation, coordinated master plan, divided responsibilities, and precisely and accurately disarming bombs.” We must already be on high alert for “black swan” events, and we must also be on guard against “gray rhino” events. We must be first-movers in preventing risks and execute wise moves in responding to risks and resolving challenges. We must fight well-prepared battles to prevent and withstand risks, and fight well strategic active warfare that turns risks into safety and turns crisis into opportunity. We must be adept at addressing our shortcomings and pay even more attention to reinforcing the bottom board [our political base or political foundation].
Fundamental rules of preventing and defusing major risks. Predicting risk is a precondition for preventing risk; certainty about the direction of risks is pivotal for taking strategic initiative. It is necessary to always keep an eye on trends, always consider the overall situation, scientifically forecast the direction in which the situation is moving and the hidden risks and challenges it contains. It is necessary to recognize all aspects of the trends of risk development and the mutual connections [among them], acutely grasp risk contagion, transformation, and linkage. It is necessary to pay attention to and guard against economic and financial risks turning into political and social risks; cyberspace risks brewing to become actual social risks; risks from external [foreign] struggles turning into internal [domestic] security and stability risks; hostile foreign forces exploiting domestic problems; prevent [these] chain reactions from occurring.
The way of thinking for guarding against and defusing major risks. It is necessary to study, fully comprehend, and practice Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, grasp and implement its worldview and methodology, strengthen strategic thinking, historical thinking, dialectical thinking, innovative thinking, rule-of-law thinking, and bottom-line thinking, to be adept at finding patterns among numerous, complicated, and complex risks and contradictions. It is necessary to persevere with bottom-line thinking, to prepare for the most harmful and difficult [outcome] in everything and strive for the best result. Achieve preparedness to avert peril; do not panic when things happen, take firm initiative.
The fighting spirit for guarding against and defusing major risks. To guard against and defuse major risks, it is necessary to have a vigorous and tenacious fighting spirit. When facing major risks, taking the initiative to meet the enemy head-on is the only way to survive, running away and cowering is a road to death. It is necessary to cultivate a fighting spirit; Communists must always have the strength of character that dares to struggle, moral integrity, personal integrity, [and] bravery. It is necessary to strengthen fighting experience, increase fighting ability, [maintain] continuous fighting spirit, and respond well to each major risk and challenge with the tenacious determination of “stamp out the bumpy obstacle to turn it into a main road, fight off the challenges and hardships, and set off.”
The competence of guarding against and defusing major risks. It is necessary to improve political capabilities, strengthen political acumen and the ability to differentiate, be adept at analyzing and resolving problems politically. It is necessary to be able to hear the rustle of the leaves and grass when a deer is passing through, know the tiger is coming as soon as the wind hisses, have the ability to forecast entire trends from a single variable just like knowing that autumn is coming as soon as one leaf changes color; see things early, move quickly. It is necessary to improve the capability to defuse major risks, to be good at assessing complex phenomenon to grasp the essence [of what is really happening], act quickly, capture the key points, find the root cause, [make] decisive strategic decisions, strike the center with one blow. It is necessary to strengthen the working ability of the masses, be adept at leading the masses and organizing the masses, be adept at integrating all sources of power, scientifically arrange troops [for battle], effectively deploy “combination punches,” and effectively gain control of the situation.
A systemic mechanism for guarding against and defusing major risks. It is necessary to establish a robust risk-analysis mechanism to conduct regular comprehensive investigations of risk factors and early [warning] signs in the areas and regions under its jurisdiction, to deeply study [the situation] and come to conclusions, and to develop targeted countertactics. It is necessary to establish a robust mechanism for risk assessment decision-making. Major strategic decisions require the utmost caution. Guarding against risks must be a top priority. When making any strategic decisions, risk assessment must be an unavoidable part of the process. It is necessary to establish robust mechanisms to coordinate risk defense and control, to establish robust mechanisms for risk information and communications, to take the initiative to strengthen coordination and enable cooperation. It is necessary to establish a robust mechanism for risk defense and control responsibilities [and] to impose it at every level; adhere and grasp at the top levels, implement it at all levels, and resolutely prevent and overcome [the problem] of each layer [in the system] trying to pass off blame onto another.
Implementation requirements for guarding against and defusing major risks. It is necessary to persist in our duty to defend the country and territories, apply pressure at every level, turn that pressure into a driving force, and do a superb job at guarding against and defusing major risks. It is necessary to divide the responsibilities for guarding against and defusing major risks among specific localities, bureaucratic departments, and work units, with every department putting forward work plans and doing a good job on implementation in their respective jurisdictions. The Party committees and relevant government departments at every level must put their efforts into implementation work and exercise supervision over the implementation process.
Study and judge new trends: Facing “six major effects” in the evolution of major risks
The fact that the world is experiencing major changes not seen in the past 100 years is bound to bring about many uncertainties. Under these new circumstances, major risks are becoming more and more complex, presenting many new trends and characteristics. We should have a sober understanding and pay high attention to the “six major effects.”
Meet the “backflow effect” head-on. As China increasingly moves closer to the center of the world stage, risks imported from outside China’s borders are increasing by the day and have already become the biggest exogenous variable impacting China’s security and stability. Hostile forces’ infiltration, subversion, and sabotage operations are becoming more open, more regular, demonstrating characteristics of “the source is outside [China’s borders], the operation is inside [China’s borders].”
Meet the “convergence effect” head-on. Various types of hostile forces reinforce one another, presenting a new trend of three convergences: “independent forces and enemies unite,” “domestic and foreign unite,” “the new and the old unite.” These linkages are becoming more frequent. The counterterror, countersuccession, and countercult struggles are becoming more complicated.
Meet the “layering effect” head-on. Interest group demands from different communities overlap with one another to create layered social problems: current problems with historical problems, tangible interest problems with ideological problems, political problems with nonpolitical problems; all intersecting and interfering with one another, too easily creating comprehensive systemic risk.
Meet the “linkage effect” head-on. All categories of risk are becoming increasingly mobile, and the interconnectedness [among them] is strengthening. Of particular importance: Communities often form across distances, call out to one another across distances, and mutually reinforce one another across distances, conspiring with one another to influence society, producing a new trend in which different communities join together, the foreign and domestic interact, and linkages emerge across [domestic Chinese] regions.
Meet the “magnifier effect” head-on. The internet has increasingly become the source, conductor, and amplifier of all kinds of risks. Any small thing can become a public opinion whirlpool; a few rumors [spread] through incitement and hype can easily produce a “storm in a teacup” and abruptly produce a real-life “tornado” in society.
Meet the “induction effect” head-on. Problems that emerge in one region can easily trigger other regions to imitate. Some complications and problems have been accumulating for a long time, are deeply buried, and are hard to resolve completely in the short term. If [those problems] continue to ferment, risks imported from outside [China] may induce them to escalate and magnify.
Grasp new tactics: Clear “five tactics” for preventing and defusing major risks
[When] faced with severe and complex risks and challenges, we must thoroughly study the pattern of risk development, pay particular attention to “struggle” tactics, and firmly grasp the strategic initiative to guard against and defuse risks.
Focus on the word stability. Pursuing progress while ensuring stability is an important principle of national governance; it is also a basic guideline for guarding against and defusing major risks. It is necessary to base everything on an overall situation of “stability”; to make seeking progress while ensuring stability the key in all work; to put the word “stability” at the forefront of everything. To constantly tighten the bow [string] of risk prevention and guarantee national security and overall social stability, put even more emphasis on ensuring that stability resides in society and in the hearts of the [Chinese] people.
Focus on the homefront. The path to follow in preventing and defusing major risks is to comprehensively plan for both the international situation and the domestic situation while prioritizing the domestic [over the international]. It is necessary to maintain strategic focus; to make managing our own affairs well the primary focus of [our] work. Establishing peace of mind among the people is the pinnacle of politics. Make great efforts to solve well the problems that directly impact the people’s interests; continuously increase the people’s sense of gain, their sense of happiness and security; [through this approach] construct a stabilizing factor against various forms of risk.
Focus on early detection. Early detection is the effective channel for preventing risks from causing actual harm; it is also an important strategy for achieving maximum results at minimum cost. Take care to be on guard when risks have not yet emerged; the moment [risks] arrive, resolve as quickly as possible. Prevention must come first. Early discovery enables small-effort recovery. Maintain a future-oriented focus, forward-looking governance, front-end control; resolve issues in the early stages; strengthen early-warning precautionary forecasting. Resolve contradictions before they occur; resolve risks while they are still intangible.
Focus on the [changing] variables. Decrease the accumulated problems, control the increase of problems, and prevent problems from transforming—these are the three major links of risks prevention and resolution. In [these] new circumstances risks are numerous, diverse, and changing; it is necessary to pay more attention to preventing [risk] transformation. It is necessary to maintain focus on problems. Effectively resolve the existing historical problems that have accumulated [over time]; focus on managing and controlling the incremental problems that are arising under the new circumstances; resolutely avert different types of contradictions and problems intersecting and interfering with one another, piling up in an escalatory manner to create evolving problems; ensure that risks do not accumulate, do not proliferate, do not escalate.
Focus on the root cause. To prevent and defuse risks, it is necessary to address both the symptoms and the root cause together [while maintaining primary] focus on the root cause. It is necessary to identify the essence of a situation, to be adept at identifying the source, identifying the critical elements, and carrying out comprehensive governance to fundamentally solve the underlying issues behind risks. It is necessary to overcome the harmful tendency of only treating the areas where the symptoms manifest. Avoid resolving problems incompletely in ways that leave dangers behind, as that can [cause problems to] rebound and come back again and again.
A new comprehensive warfare: Five major campaigns to guard against and defuse major risks
Guarding against and defusing major risks is a great struggle with new historical characteristics. We need to innovate and improve our thinking and action, coordinate our tactics and warfare, launch a precise offensive campaign, and protect national political security and overall social stability at full strength.
Fight a good defensive campaign. The focus should be on defending against risks imported from outside [China’s borders] and political and security risks that have been festering and breeding for a long time. It is necessary to on the one hand persist in building impenetrable defenses to block foreign hostile forces’ attempts to infiltrate, subvert, and destroy, while on the other hand eliminate the soil that undermines political security within [China’s] borders. Promptly eradicate risks and hidden dangers that could trigger impacts on political security.
Fight a good battle of annihilation. The focus should be on cracking down on violence and terrorism as well as evil cult organizations. From beginning to end, it is necessary to maintain a high-pressure crackdown posture, to persist in striking all “terror” and striking wherever it rears its head, to push forward with crackdowns to restore normal order, to deepen international counterterror cooperation, and to resolutely eradicate the seeds and the soil (breeding ground) for violence and terrorism. It is necessary to crack down on evil cult organizations and illegal religions in accordance with the law.
Fight good offensive battles. Focus on guarding against and defusing latent security risks that [may arise] in stages, in regions, or in industries. Push forward the campaign against organized crime and [other] evils, focus on cracking down in accordance with the law; “break the umbrella and network [of corrupt and evil forces]” and “destroy the wealth [of the evil forces] to cut off their blood[line]”; launch wave after wave of formidable offensives. Persist with two strong hands [at the same time]: one ensuring the protection of legitimate rights and interests and the other cracking down on crimes. Do a good job of maintaining stability for special interest groups. Resolutely contain major security incidents; safeguard public security.
Fight a good protracted war. Focus on resisting and responding to “color revolution” risks. It is necessary to strengthen strategic planning, prepare well for long-term struggle, strengthen strategic planning for struggle against an enemy, improve the thinking and strategy for struggles against an enemy, develop skills for playing well at all elements of the game, and strive to take the initiative in the struggle.
Fight a good cyberwar. Focus on guarding against and defusing ideological risks on the internet. New political media on the internet must be strong, large, and loud; [build an] innovative legal and political “cyberpropaganda iron army” organizational structure, mechanism, and system; build a strong legal and political “cyberpropaganda iron army” to continuously improve the legal and political public opinion environment on the internet. Strengthen internet inspection and control measures, resolutely crack down on political rumors and damaging information on the internet. Innovate to improve public opinion leadership mechanisms; resolutely guard against “black swan” and “gray rhino” public sentiment risks.