Censorship in China, and How Western Scholars Can Easily Dodge It — A Modest Proposal

  • Peter Busch (Autor/in)


Recently there has been a heated debate in academic circles about censorship in China and the problems that foreign scholars face when trying to publish in the country. I am not going to go into the details of cases like Cambridge University Press or Springer Nature here; suffice to say that they were (or still are) willing to commit to self-censorship in order to gain access to the Chinese market. Apart from that, Chinese campuses of European or American Universities are also facing increasing pressure and interference from officials as well as alleged ‘non-governmental’ groups. Whoever needs more examples may simply refer to the ‘China section’ of the ‘Annual Report of the Network of Concerned Historians 2017’.
In essence, this is not a brand-new phenomenon; censorship has always existed under Communist rule, but there have been certain periods when it was enforced less strictly. The last years of Jiang Zemin’s rule, for example, or most parts of Hu Jintao’s, witnessed some degree of lenience towards dissidents, authors and artists. Certainly, some individuals were arrested and put in prison during those years, so one of course cannot claim that there has ever been an overall trend towards ‘liberalization’ in Chinese society. Perhaps we can say that for some years the Chinese government drove a zigzag course when it came to censorship. Maybe they did not even want to draw a clear line between the allowed and the forbidden, thereby leaving the task of censorship to the intellectuals themselves – always keeping them aware of the potential dangers that they might face once they had crossed the invisible line.


Censorship in China, Western Scholars