Since taking power, Chinese President Xi Jinping has effectively made himself "chairman of everything." The coronavirus scare is showing all the risks involved with that strategy.

Xi last week took direct control of the response to the outbreak, showing the high stakes in a crisis that has now killed 361 people in China and spurred panic across the globe. He's overseen extreme measures, including quarantining more than 50 million people — roughly equivalent to the population of Spain — and rapidly building two new hospitals.

While lower-ranking Communist Party officials are starting to admit they were slow to contain the virus, senior leaders very quickly realized the enormous political stakes. Last Tuesday they issued a notice calling for cadres to think of the big picture, stay united and "resolutely uphold General Secretary Xi Jinping's core position" in the party.