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The Erosion of Global Norms: China's Rise of Secrecy and Concealment



A worrying trend that has gained traction in recent years is the growing deterioration of international norms of open government and transparency. China, whose government operates on concepts of secrecy and concealment rather than openness and transparency, is at the vanguard of this trend.


Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party has increased its adherence to secrecy, which has resulted in a number of measures that violate international standards. China's model of government poses a serious danger to transparency and accountability globally by restricting independent journalism and distorting and withholding key information.


Given how strongly monitoring and control are used in China's governance system, stability and control must be maintained through secrecy. Independent journalism is actively repressed in China, and digital material is censored and closely controlled. China has become even more secretive under President Xi Jinping's direction, hiding crucial information, altering data, and enlarging counterespionage legislation to strengthen its control over the nation's digital environment.


Beijing's covert strategy is becoming more and more popular around the world through infrastructure initiatives, collaborative educational initiatives, and the export of surveillance technologies. Countries that enter into agreements with China frequently discover that they are expected to emulate China's policies, limiting transparency and accountability. As a result, new norms characterised by secrecy and opacity are increasingly replacing the global standards of transparency and open government.


The confidentiality clauses that China demands in agreements with international governments and enterprises are clear indications of its reliance on secrecy. The confidentiality of many agreements reached with Chinese government bodies prevents public examination and debate.


For instance, the monitoring project known as the Mauritius Safe City Project, which was launched in collaboration with Huawei, received little public attention and escaped regulation. Similar to this, a thorough monitoring system set up in Serbia was shrouded in secrecy, preventing the public from knowing the specifics and any abuses.


China's fixation with secrecy has serious negative effects on the economy and democracy. High levels of corruption and opaque government procedures discourage foreign investment and reduce a nation's economic productivity. Furthermore, principles and practises of accountable governance are undermined, which compromises the long-term viability and integrity of independent institutions. Particularly vulnerable nations with poor institutional governance are at risk from China's influence.


Open societies must place a high priority on transparency and openness to combat the deterioration of international norms and China's export of secrecy. Democracies are committed to openness, which gives them a competitive edge and should be used to expose Beijing's covert actions. Governments and NGOs must clearly convey the drawbacks of cooperating with China and forcefully refute the myth that China's growth strategy is advantageous.


Open societies should push Chinese businesses to make their contracts public and create alliances and mechanisms to negotiate with China more effectively. Democracies can counter China's global secrecy regime and defend international norms by highlighting the value of transparency, accountability, and open government.

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