In this article I argue that the global biosecurity project that arose out
of the events of the SARS epidemic of 2003 created a new balance of secrecy and
transparency within the public health arm of the Chinese state. In an effort to meet
national and international demands for greater transparency in support of a “common
good,” local public health officials engaged in what I call hypertransparency.
This hypertransparency took two forms: the real-time online sharing of disease
incidence data within the public health bureaucracy, and the over-performance
of disease fighting strategies in front of a wider local and global public. Because
local Chinese officials interpreted the “common good” differently from their international
partners, neither of these efforts succeeded in erasing the crucial role
that local officials continued to play in determining what should and should not
be shared, and with whom. Secrecy continued to be an important component of
China’s securitization efforts, with hypertransparency ultimately concealing more
than it revealed.