Earlier this month, the Cambridge University Press (CUP), publisher of the China Quarterly, one of the most important journals for scholarship on Modern China, announced that it was removing 300 articles from its Chinese website following a request from the Press’s partners in China.
Angry academics rarely make the news, but this particular tempest quickly exploded the teacup, and even though CUP backtracked a week later, the damage had been done.
Intellectual freedom is the bedrock of the academic exercise, at least in theory. But China in the 21st century has created its own gravitational pull, and access to China — whether to its publishing market or simply for scholars to do research — is treated by the government as a holy sacrament which can be revoked should the resulting scholarship offend the sensibilities of China’s leaders.
Nor are China’s state interests feeling particularly apologetic for putting CUP in this position.