China has the right to censor Cambridge University Press to uphold its laws on security grounds against what is “harmful to Chinese society.” Two rival visions of the world are facing off. China has interests in the internet market. Censorship is counterproductive for China’s academic community.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – “If they don’t like the Chinese way, they can stop engaging with us,” said an editorial in the Global Times against all those who criticise Chinese censorship.
The controversy stems from the decision of the Cambridge University Press (CUP) to comply with China’s request to block access to more than 300 articles on its Chinese site.
The articles deal mostly with the Tiananmen massacre, the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
The text published today is aimed at "These Westerners [who] are arrogant and absurd" and expect to enter the Chinese Internet market without respecting "Chinese law".
The Global Times is an English newspaper linked to the People’s Daily and has a strongly nationalist bent. Above all, it defends the Chinese Communist Party.
The editorial goes on to say that “The CUP can enjoy academic freedom under British law,” but when in China it must “abide by the Chinese law.”
Such censorship is necessary because “some information on foreign websites” is “harmful to Chinese society. This is for the sake of China's security and is within the scope of China's sovereignty.”
For the paper, a "rivalry" exists between two visions of the world, the Western and the Chinese.
After describing the Westerns as "arrogant and absurd," it goes on to say “The West's values and interests have been positioned at the core of human society. This is a rule made by the West's strength. If China becomes powerful and has the ability to maintain its own interests, it is bound to take actions.”
It adds, “It is worth noting that China's Internet laws and regulations are defensive, not offensive to the West.”
However, more than security or the "defence of Chinese laws", the Global Times seems interested in business. “Western institutions have the freedom to choose. 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."
With respect to cultural freedom and independent research, the paper is not worried. "As the readership of the China Quarterly is limited, there will be little impact over the CUP withdrawing some articles.”
Unfortunately, precisely because of censorship, no one knows the opinion of the “limited” readership.
For Columbia University political science and China expert Prof Andrew Nathan, by censoring the articles, China “is not making itself any safer, but weakening its own academic community”.
“Even pro-regime academics and propaganda officials need to know what the outside world is saying on sensitive subjects,” he said.
“And the many independent-minded students and scholars in China will learn through various channels that these resources exist, and will find ways to look them up and circulate them.”