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China Continues to Extend Influence over Foreign Publishing and Universities

In the months following the uproar caused by the Cambridge University Press censorship fiasco, the Chinese government continued to exert pressure on foreign publishers operating in the country. In late October, it was revealed that Springer Nature, one of the largest commercial academic publishers in the world, had capitulated to the Chinese censors, blocking access to at least one thousand ‘politically sensitive’ articles on their Chinese website. The publisher defended the decision by saying that only 1 percent of total content had been ‘limited’, and claiming that it was necessary to comply in order to avoid wider restrictions. In mid-November, Australian academic Clive Hamilton went public saying that Allen & Unwin withdrew his forthcoming book Silent Invasion: How China Is Turning Australia into a Puppet State, due to fears of defamation litigation. In late November, SAGE Publishing warned that they might be required to censor content or be pushed out of the Chinese market. The increasing assertiveness of Chinese censors and their zeal to push foreign publishers to self-censor in order to access the large Chinese market resulted in numerous headlines and petitions. However, despite the high-profile coverage, the response from the wider academic community outside of China-focussed social sciences remained largely apathetic. Beijing’s efforts to influence foreign academia were not limited to the publishing sphere. In mid-November, over two thousand foreign funded joint venture universities in China were instructed to set up party units and give the new party secretaries a role in decision making through seats on institutional boards. This decision came at the end of a year filled with continuous controversy about Chinese influence in higher-education institutions abroad. NL

(Sources: BBC; Financial Times 1; Financial Times 2; Financial Times 3; Reuters; The New York Times)

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