International Academic Journals Comply With Beijing’s Censorship

Security officials stand guard in front of Tiananmen Gate next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 2019. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)
BY LI ZHENGKUAN

Commentary

Taiwanese ophthalmologist Jo-Hsuan Wu and her team received a reply on Aug. 24 from the editorial office of Eye and Vision, an international medical journal, about a research paper they submitted on retinopathy. To their surprise, their paper had been subjected to political censorship, and required the authors to change “Taiwan” to “Taiwan, China” when identifying their nationality. Otherwise, the paper would be rejected without further consideration.

Eye and Vision is a peer-reviewed medical journal for ophthalmologists and vision scientists. It is published by Springer Nature, the world’s largest academic publisher.

“The day has finally come,” Wu wrote in a Facebook post on Aug. 26, “Showing once again that politics is everywhere, even in academia. When I encountered this situation, I decided I would rather submit the manuscript to other publishers, and train myself to become a better researcher.”

CCP’s Red Tentacles Behind Academic Journals

On Aug. 26, Springer Nature Group responded to an inquiry from Radio Free Asia, saying that  it partners with China’s Wenzhou Medical University to publish Eye and Vision and that it serves as a “co-publisher,” adding that the journal operates under a separate set of editorial guidelines.

The official website of the ophthalmology hospital affiliated with Wenzhou Medical University states that Eye and Vision is “an English-language journal under the aegis of Wenzhou Medical University,” and Qu Jia, director of the hospital, is the editor-in-chief.

Launched in October 2014, it is aimed at “blazing a path to take China’s scientific community global by publishing their research in international journals.”

In other words, Eye and Vision appears to be an international journal, yet in reality, it is a Chinese government-sponsored journal under the guise of an international academic publisher. Behind it is the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) plan to elevate the global influence of China’s scientific community.

In recent years, Chinese state media has repeatedly touted “taking Chinese technology and culture global.” Correspondingly, the CCP’s research institutions not only cooperate with international publishers, but also purchase overseas academic publishers.

For instance, in 2019, Chinese Academy of Sciences Holdings Co. bought EDP Sciences, a French scientific publisher founded by a group of renowned scientists that included Marie Curie.

Not the First Time Springer Nature Yielded to Beijing’s Censorship

Headquartered in Germany, Springer Nature Group is the world’s largest academic publisher, producing more than 3,000 science and technology journals a year, including the world leading science journal Nature, and Scientific Americana popular science journal under Nature Publishing Group.

As early as 2017, Springer Nature confirmed that it had blocked access in China to some 1,000 articles published in the Journal of Chinese Political Science and International Politics because they contained keywords banned by the CCP, such as “Tibet,” “Xinjiang,” “Taiwan,” and the “Cultural Revolution.”

In a statement to the Associated Press at the time, Springer Nature explained that if it had not selectively blocked access to the politically sensitive articles, access to its entire SpringerLink website could have been blocked by China’s “Great Firewall,” the regime’s sophisticated online censorship mechanism.

“It’s an example of how unprepared we are in the west for China’s influence expanding outwards,” Jonathan Sullivan, Director of the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, told the Financial Times. “It’s about how we perceive our relationship with China and how much we value principles versus the instrumental benefits of pleasing the authorities in China.”

At the beginning of 2020, the CCP virus (novel coronavirus) raged around the world as a result of the CCP’s cover-up of the nature and severity of the disease, and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have died from the virus.

In addition to concealment, the CCP also blamed the United States for being the originator of the virus.

The U.S. administration, citing intelligence, has said that the virus is naturally-occurring but that “there is significant evidence” suggesting the virus first leaked out of a Wuhan lab. Officials have called out Beijing for denying international researchers access to crucial data about the virus’s origins.

However, the Springer Nature Group’s journals have criticized the Trump administration and all other governments that believe the CCP should be held accountable.

For instance, on April 7, the editorial office of Nature published a commentary, “Stop The Coronavirus Stigma Now,” saying: “U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly associated the virus with China. Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro—son of President Jair Bolsonaro—has called it ‘China’s fault.’ Politicians elsewhere, including in the United Kingdom, are also saying that China bears responsibility. Continuing to associate a virus and the disease it causes with a specific place is irresponsible and needs to stop.”

Ironically, Nature kept silent when the CCP blamed the origin of the virus on other countries.

A Number of International Academic Publishers Kowtow to the CCP

In recent years, people in the West were shocked to find that some publishing houses in the free world, including world-renowned publishers, chose to comply with China’s censorship policies.

In August 2017, Cambridge University Press (CUP) ceded to Beijing and blocked online access to Chinese readers to some 300 articles concerning the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Cultural Revolution, and Tibet. The articles were published in China Quarterly, one of the most prestigious publications on China issues.

CUP declared that the articles were removed at the request of the Chinese General Administration for Press and Publications to avoid the site from being completely shut down inside China.

A December 2018 report from Reuters revealed that British academic publisher Taylor & Francis dropped more than 80 journals from its offerings in China at the government’s request as these journals had content deemed “inappropriate” by the Chinese authorities.

CCP’s Politicization of Science

In today’s society, science is the driving force of human development, and the general public has great respect for experts and scholars, placing trust in their opinions and judgment in various fields.

Academic research should be independent of politics. However, in mainland China, academic circles do not have the freedom they need, and scholars are only tools that serve the Chinese communist regime. The CCP has a strong desire to control science and technology, not to improve people’s lives and promote social development but to maintain its rule.

As long as the CCP needs something, it will mobilize experts and scholars to serve its political interests. Those scientists who have the courage to explore the truth may be ruthlessly suppressed if the truth does not serve the interests of the CCP.

For example, after the outbreak of the CCP virus, Zhong Nanshan, an infectious disease expert who complies with the CCP requirements, gained fame and fortune in China; while Dr. Jiang Yanyong, a medical expert living in Beijing and SARS whistleblower in 2003, has been under house arrest for more than a decade.

The CCP has now extended its red tentacles overseas, which has led to increasing erosion of the content of international academic journals and the destruction of the free and open international academic environment. Over time, international academic journals will become a tool of the CCP to infiltrate other countries. Correspondingly, if scientists want to publish papers in such journals, they will have to perform self-censorship and conform to the will of the CCP.

The global pandemic is a typical example. In the early stage of the outbreak, the international community was misled by WHO experts and failed to take timely preventive measures, which allowed the CCP virus to quickly spread around the world. Social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, also cooperated with the Chinese regime in spreading disinformation about the virus.

The CCP has already used high-tech to turn China into a strictly controlled society, and a big prison that has gone beyond George Orwell’s imagination. In fact, the CCP has never concealed its ambitions to rule the world. If the international society will allow the CCP to infiltrate academia, science will become a club in the hands of the CCP to wantonly suppress anyone or anything that goes against its will and realize its political interests.

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