Academics outraged that Cambridge University Press bowed to China’s censorship


CUP(, Aug22, 2017) – Academics have expressed outrage that Cambridge University Press (CUP) has bowed to Chinese government’s demands to censor a reputed academic journal being published by it, reported Aug 21. The CUP had announced Aug 18 that it had removed 300 articles and book reviews from a version of the China Quarterly website available in China at the request of the government.

Tim Pringle, editor of the China Quarterly journal, had said CUP complied with the request, which came from the Chinese government’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), so as to prevent the shutdown of the entire CUP site.

But academics around the world have accused CUP of selling out and becoming complicit in censoring Chinese academic debate and history.

James A Millward, a professor of history at Georgetown University, has called the decision “a craven, shameful and destructive concession” to the People’s Republic of China’s growing censorship regime, writing in an open letter published on He has said the decision overruled the peer-review process and the views of editors about what should be in the journal and was a “clear violation of academic independence inside and outside China.”

“And as my colleagues Greg Distelhorst and Jessica Chen Weiss have written, ‘the censored history of China will literally bear the seal of Cambridge University’,” he has written.

A petition is now circulating among academics warning that CUP could face a boycott if it continues to acquiesce to the Chinese government’s demands.

“It is disturbing to academics and universities worldwide that China is attempting to export its censorship on topics that do not fit its preferred narrative,” Christopher Balding, an associate professor at Peking University HSBC School of Business in Shenzhen, China, the petition’s originator, was quoted as having written.

“If Cambridge University Press acquiesces to the demands of the Chinese government, we as academics and universities reserve the right to pursue other actions including boycotts of Cambridge University Press and related journals.”

The report said the petition requested that only academics and people working in higher education sign, and give their affiliation. By Aug 21 afternoon in China it had attracted 290 signatures on

China is dismissive of the protest. The report noted that in an editorial, China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said that Western institutions can leave if they don’t like it.

“Western institutions have the freedom to choose,” it was quoted as having written. “If they don’t like the Chinese way, they can stop engaging with us. If they think China’s Internet market is so important that they can’t miss out, they need to respect Chinese law and adapt to the Chinese way.”

Qiao Mu, a former professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, has said the decision might seem “wise” for the publisher as a company, since China is a huge market. However, he has added, it would have a negative effect on already limited academic freedom in China. Qiao was demoted and had ultimately left the university after criticizing the government. He has said the censored articles are things that China does not like and does not want to be discussed.

Cambridge University Press has made available a complete list of the censored articles.


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