China's Lack of Transparency is Creating “Antisynopathy”

China's Lack of Transparency is Creating “Antisynopathy”

BAKU, Azerbaijan. Sept. 23


In parallel with the rapid implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative in the last seven years, with the maturation of the "Debt Trap" theses on China's investments in Africa, a trend of "China-Skepticism" has started to take root in the international community against China's Belt and Road investments. Later, with the COVID-19 process, China-Skepticism began to deepen and gain ground due to accusations that China deliberately late informed the international community about the virus and distorted local case data. In addition to all this, due to WHO's obviously perceived pro-Chinese statements and China-related disinformation attempts on the pandemic, this perception of skepticism towards China continued to grow.

Despite the significant investments made within the scope of the Belt and Road strategy such as railways, roads and strategic ports and the international interest shown in these, criticism against Beijing's questionable strategic approach has increased in recent years. The high-profile cancellations of some projects such as the railway in Pakistan, Myanmar, and Malaysia were caused by enormous borrowing concerns that these countries would not be able to pay for the construction costs of major projects and massive debt to Beijing that could last for decades. The United States and other Western countries have warned potential Belt and Road partners that this "debt diplomacy" from Beijing will strengthen China's influence on the world and hinder democratic governments. In this regard, Pompeo in particular made visits to EU countries to warn against information technology investments under China's "Digital Silk Road" strategy, targeting Huawei's 5G project.

According to Bart Oosterveld, director of the Atlantic Council's Global Business and Economics Program, China does not understand or worry about debt diplomacy issues. Although Beijing publicly commends the benefits of Belt and Road projects for global trade and development in partner countries, he said that he sees the projects as infrastructure investments for (predominantly Chinese) investors that must earn money. Looking at the issues that fuel skepticism in terms of military, Washington has also expressed concerns over new agreements that would see China invest or even own strategic ports in Asia and Europe, such as Piraeus in Greece and Gwadar in Pakistan. The United States has tried to dissuade European partners from joining the initiative, fears that it could weaken transatlantic unity and allow China access to critical infrastructure for European defense, such as ports and road networks. Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Robert Dohner argued that “the success of BRI and the challenges that it poses for the United States depend not just on the amount of resources that China brings to bear, but also how adroit China is in responding to the inevitable criticisms that it will face and in revising the BRI to make it more transparent and consistent with the developed standards and conditions of international and multilateral investment lending.”[1] This new Chinese skepticism in internationally relevant environments continues to overshadow China's strategic investments under Belt and Road and its "Health Silk Road" initiatives through "Mask Diplomacy".

After the secret concentration camps in the Uyghur autonomous region, Chinese skepticism with the COVID-19 epidemic came back to the agenda of the international community on the grounds that China was distorting local pandemic case data. Some experts stated that China's Coronavirus data should be examined with suspicion. Despite all the measures taken by implementing the "national health code system" at the local level, many Chinese have remained skeptical. “Not even the generation of retirees who were once so loyal to the party don't believe this nonsense. China is trying to prove to the West that it currently has zero cases. But this is nothing more than a slogan." said a Wuhan blogger. US-based Chinese blogger and biochemist Fang Zhouzi (方舟子) heavily criticized official data from Beijing. In his criticism on Twitter, he said "no one should believe the local officials who lie about statistics on behalf of the economy."

Professor Xu Zhangrun (许 章 润) from Qinghua University, in his article entitled "Angry People No Longer Fear" which caused him to be demoted by the university and banned from teaching, writing and publishing, had harshly criticized the CCP and Xi Jinping administration for their digital authoritarianism. In his article, Professor Xu emphasized that the country and its citizens are governed by “big data totalitarianism (大 数据 极权 主义)” and its “WeChat Terrorism (微 信 恐怖主义)”. In the face of the epidemic, there are countless patients and who are wailing in Jiangxia city, throughout Hubey province, who have not been admitted to hospital and have nowhere to seek medical treatment. So how many people died is still unknown. The exclusion of society and people, cutting off all sources of information, and allowing only propaganda from the party media will leave this country forever a lame giant if it is truly a giant. [2]

Due to Trump's frequent use of the term "Chinese Virus" during the 2020 presidential election in the USA, China-skepticism has now found a macro ground at the global level. China should definitely abandon its lack of transparency towards the international community in the new period and learn to respect all constructive strategic criticisms against him in order to prevent China-skepticism from turning into a real "synophobia" in the international community. Otherwise, due to China's lack of transparency, this new China-skepticism process, initiated with the expression of the Chinese Virus, will evolve from “synopathy” to “antisynopathy” primarily towards Chinese citizens abroad. Then It will show its negative effect until it spreads wave after wave from economy to culture, art etc. fields and reaches high level diplomatic relations.

Note: In order to contribute to the international Chinese studies literature, as a new classification tools for political feelings related with international policy, the concepts “sinopathy” which describes individual or institutional interest, praise and love for China or Chinese citizens and “antisinopathy” which describes individual or institutional neglect, satire and hatred for China or Chinese citizens are first time used by author in this article.

Author: Mehmet Fatih Oztosun is an independent China expert and traveler researcher professionally focuses on China's Belt and Road Initiative.


[1] David A. Wemer: “Skepticism casts a shadow over China’s Belt and Road Summit”, Atlantic Council, April 25, 2019,

2 许章润:《愤怒的人民已不再恐惧》,新华侨网,2020年07月06日,许章润:愤怒的人民已不再恐惧/

By Mehmet F. Oztosun

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