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More Chinese Censorship of International Journals

December 21, 2018

The Asian Studies Association of Australia announced that its journal, the Asian Studies Review, is now restricted in China due to state censorship.

The association said it was recently alerted by one of its members of the restrictions and that the publisher, Taylor & Francis, subsequently confirmed that "effective September 2018, Chinese 'import agencies' (which are part of the government) have decided to not include ASR in their Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences subscription package. Importers have discretion to accept the package as a whole, or to pick and choose what to include. Chinese importers have decided, on the grounds of 'compliance with local regulations,' that ASR will be one of about 40 excluded journals in the fields of China and/or area studies because some of its content is deemed inappropriate to the government."

"Taylor & Francis has confirmed that the Chinese import agencies deemed six articles in the ASR objectionable," the association's executive committee said in a statement. "We asked the publisher to identify the articles in question, but T&F denied our request on the grounds that this information is commercially sensitive."

Taylor & Francis said in a statement that starting in September the “Chinese import agencies opted not to include 83 of the 1,466 journals in the [social sciences and humanities] Library in the package available to purchase by Chinese libraries.” A spokesperson for the publisher declined to provide a list of the 83 excluded journals, directing the question to the Chinese import agencies themselves. Taylor & Francis said its entire science, technology and medicine journals package remains available to libraries in China.

“This change was discussed with a number of our society publishing partners earlier this year,” Taylor & Francis said in its statement. “We have been open and transparent with them and taken feedback and soundings on this.”

The restrictions on the Taylor & Francis-published journals reflect a trend toward growing state censorship of international academic journals in the social sciences and humanities in China, particularly in cases in which the journals publish scholarship on subjects considered sensitive by the Chinese government. The publisher Springer Nature has come under widespread criticism for its decision to block access to individual journal articles in China with a view toward maintaining access for its wider collection there. In August of 2017 Cambridge University Press briefly blocked access in China to more than 300 articles in the China Quarterly journal before -- having come under intense criticism from academics for caving to censors -- reversing course and restoring access to the articles.

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Elizabeth Redden

Elizabeth Redden, Senior Reporter, covers general higher education topics, religion and higher education, and international higher education for Inside Higher Ed. She has more than a decade of experience as an education journalist. She holds an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

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