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Beijing Attempts to Censor Foreign Academic Publications

In mid-August, Cambridge University Press (CUP) conceded that it had acted on a request from Chinese authorities to block 315 articles from the Chinese website of The China Quarterly, one of the most prestigious and long-running international China Studies journals. CUP’s decision prompted outrage in the academic community and beyond. After a few days of petitions and threats of an academic boycott, CUP reversed its decision and agreed to make all the censored articles available free of charge worldwide. While the scholarly community was successful in pressuring CUP, this incident exposed the serious challenges facing academic publishers operating in the lucrative Chinese market. It was subsequently revealed that LexisNexis, a provider of legal, regulatory, and business information, withdrew content in China at the request of the authorities. Moreover, in anonymous interviews at the Beijing International Book Fair in late August, other commercial publishers admitted to engaging in self-censorship in order to retain access to the Chinese market. Meanwhile, other disturbing revelations showed that censors were systematically deleting historical articles from Chinese journals that did not toe the current ideological line. Beijing responded defiantly to the international condemnation, inviting Western institutions to leave China if they did not want to follow Chinese rules, and warning that all imported publications ‘must adhere to Chinese laws and regulations’. NL

(Sources: Global Times; Reuters 1; Reuters 2; South China Morning Post 1; The China Collection; The Guardian 1; The Guardian 2)

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