Björn Alpermann is Chair Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Würzburg, Germany. His research interests include rural China’s governance and political economy, social change and political stratification in urban China, and Chinese population policies with a focus on ageing and ethnicity. His most recent monograph is Xinjiang: China and the Uyghurs (Würzburg University Press, 2021 [in German]; French edition forthcoming).

Ethics in Social Science Research on China

Although research ethics remains an underdiscussed topic in the field of Chinese studies, it is becoming increasingly important due to evolving research practice standards and growing international distrust of the Chinese Party-State. This essay draws from the relevant literature and the author’s own experiences to offer a reflection on professional, personal, and political ethics in social science research in China. It argues that we must recognise the complex trade-offs involved rather than proposing simple solutions. Social research in authoritarian settings such as contemporary China requires delicately weighing different options, none of which will be ideal, if we do not want to forgo any chance of firsthand data-gathering inside the system.

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