China has extended its censorship to foreign academic publishers, reports confirm.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), one of the affected publishers which is regarded as one of the world’s largest academic publishing house, confirmed that over 1,000 of its journal articles were blocked in China.
Chinese internet users were unable to gain access to the educational materials because they contained banned keywords.
Springer Nature said all of its published works relating to the Cultural Revolution (1966 -1976), Taiwan, Tibet or any such political topics were removed.
The company which publishes Nature and the Scientific American said all of its works which appeared the Journal of Chinese Political Science and International Politics were blocked by the government.
In a report from the The Financial Times, the American company said: “As a global publisher we are required to take account of the local rules and regulations in the countries in which we distribute our published content.”
Image shows the Chinese president Xi Jinping during a military parade
“As a global publisher we are required to take account of the local rules and regulations in the countries in which we distribute our published content.”
“China’s regulatory requirements oblige us to operate our SpringerLink platform in compliance with their local distribution laws [which] only apply to local access to content,” it added in the official statement.
“This is not editorial censorship,” the company said. “In not taking action we ran the very real risk of all of our content being blocked.”
However, Spring Nature confirmed its academic materials are still accessible outside China, where the Great Firewall’s complex censorship system filters every human or material resources considered “immoral” or politically sensitive.
Contrary to Spring Nature’s experience in China, the government earlier in August blocked about 300 articles from the Cambridge University Press. The company said all affected materials appeared on China’s quarterly academic journals website but were blocked on request from Beijing’s media regulators.
Although the media watchers cited use of red-flagged keywords as the reason for their blockade, CPU said the ban on its published works were later reversed, in part only.
Surprisingly, the government office refused a later request from the State Administration of Press and Publications, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) to block around 100 articles published by the Journal of Asian Studies. This was totally different from previous harsh measures taken against the American publisher, Spring Nature.
‘China is expanding its influence in the West,’ Jonathan Sullivan, director of Nottingham University’s China Policy Institute, and the author of one of the articles which have been blocked, told the Financial Times: ‘This is a sign of our helplessness. We’re not yet ready for China’s growing influence around the world.’
According to RFA, a retired university professor named Sun Wenguang admitted that China has successfully applied stringent measures in its local media and now seeks to express its strength against foreign media houses.
‘The government is using mind-control tools. They want to ensure that only contents it endorses ever makes it into the minds of its citizens,’ Sun said. ‘They already have total control of the internet in our backyards and it seems not enough for them.”
He continued: ‘I’m more concerned about out students…this editing of teaching materials in mainland China will affect high schools, elementary schools and institutions of higher learning. A lot of students will suffer.
‘Of course, you don’t expect anything less from the academy. They will comply by producing biased materials…and the impact will be felt deeply.’
In addition to Mr Sun’s perspective on China’s censorship, another academician James Sung, who works as a Political Science lecturer at Hong Kong’s City University, told RFA that the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s is concerned about the country’s security which must sync with President Xi Jinping’s strict criteria.
The supreme leadership expanded its influence since last month’s 19th party congress.
“A lot of university lecturers [in China], especially the younger ones, hold views that are pretty sympathetic to Western ideas of democracy and human rights,” Sung said.
“The central propaganda ministry and ideological departments are very concerned about this, so they are calling for some curbs.
“We may think that academics and scholars make up a very small segment of the population, and have little to do with ordinary people’s lives. But from Beijing’s point of view, they are still hugely influential.
“We are now seeing whether overseas publishing houses have enough clout to negotiate with China,” Sung said.