A Second Opinion: Censorship in China?

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Javier Hernandez: “Academic publishers have become a popular target, part of
Mr. Xi’s efforts to restrict the flow of ideas at universities.” Cambridge
University Press had removed 300 articles from the
Chinese site of the journal China Quarterly

by Mary Foran

As U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump take a strategic trip to Asia in the wake of North Korean nuclear taunting tactics, an interesting article appeared in the New York Times International Section, November 2nd, 2017, by Javier C. Hernandez reporting from Beijing.

US Pres. Donald Trump and First Lady Melania in South Korea as part of the President’s strategic tour of Asia

Hernandez noted that a major academic publisher, Springer Nature, which publishes Nature and Scientific American, has withdrawn articles from its Chinese Mainland website that “touch on topics the ruling Communist Party considers sensitive, including (articles) on Taiwan, Tibet, human rights and elite politics.” Critics were saying that the publisher was “bowing to pressure from the Chinese government to block access to hundreds of articles on its Chinese website”.

“The publisher defended its decision, saying that only 1 percent of its content was inaccessible in mainland China”.

Because of China’s confidence in its clout as a vast market, foreign firms have found themselves acquiescing to the Chinese government’s strict demands on free speech, Hernandez explained. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, “academic publishers have become a popular target, part of Mr. Xi’s efforts to restrict the flow of ideas at universities”, wrote Hernandez.

27th anniversary (2016) of the Tiananmen Square massacre on 4 June 1989

Back in August, Cambridge University Press, one of the oldest publishing houses, said it had removed 300 articles from the Chinese site of the journal China Quarterly, wrote Hernandez. These articles mentioned the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the Cultural Revolution and other topics deemed inappropriate by the authorities, Hernandez noted, adding that the publisher “reversed course after an outcry”. The alleged censorship scandal was first reported by The Financial Times of London, the writer added, which “accused the company of prioritizing profit over free speech.”

Hernandez quotes Michael Cox, a scholar who serves as editor of the International Politics Journal, one of the Springer Nature publications that has been censored in China, as saying that “My first priority is to maintain and defend the principle of academic freedom.” Cox is also Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Xi Jinping in 2016: Re-elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the ideology bearing his name is written into the Party’s constitution

“Since coming to power in 2012, Mr. Xi has significantly tightened control of the internet, encouraging universities to be more vigilant about the spread of Western influences,” Hernandez wrote. “While foreign news sites and social media portals are widely blocked in China, overseas academic journals had largely avoided mass censorship until recently.” Hernandez adds,”Another Springer Nature publication, the Journal of Chinese Political Science, is also being censored in mainland China.” Hernandez explains further: “One  censored article focuses on the disputed South China Sea, a topic widely covered in China’s state-run news media”. Springer Nature said that it “deferred to the local authorities in deciding which articles to block”.

President Trump is scheduled to stop in Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, The Philippines. He started his Asian tour and in Hawaii at the Arizona WWII Memorial under sunny skies. Back in Washington, he left with Tax Reform and political in-fighting between Democrats and Republicans on the boil.

Trade renegotiations and geo-political strategy are at the top of the President’s agenda on his Pacific encounters.


Featured image/Fair Use via Wikipedia
Trump and Melania, Official White House photo /Andrea Hanks, PD

Tiananmen anniversary/doctorho vuia flickr, CC BY-ND2.0
Xi Jinping/Narendra Modi via Flickr, CC BY-SA4.0


About Mary
Born in Seattle, WA, U.S.A., and a graduate of the University of Oregon in Spanish and General Literature, Mary lived in Madrid, Spain during the 80s, a period in Spanish history which became known as “The Transition”. She taught English as a Foreign Language and worked as Managing Editor of the Guidepost when it was still a weekly print publication. She did a stint on Spanish Foreign Radio and Radio Cadena, and corresponded for a Financial Times of London newsletter. She still has ties to Spain, loves the people and the country, and has great hopes for the future!