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China Owned International Academic Journal Imposes Political Censorship

Wu Ruoxuan, a Doctor from Taiwan, was shocked to learn from the editor of Eye and Vision, a medical journal that Springer Nature publishes, that in accordance with the relevant Chinese policies of the journal and the Springer Nature Group, she must use “Taiwan, China” as her nationality; otherwise her paper would not be published. After Wu posted her story on social media, it drew criticism on the issue of political censorship in the academic journal industry.

In the written correspondence that Radio Free Asia obtained from Springer Nature, it stated that, for journals that they own, the author can decide how they wish to present their academic affiliations. However, since Eye and Vision is a journal that the Eye Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University in China owns, it must comply with a “different set of regulations.” With its headquarter in London, Springer Nature is the world’s largest academic publisher. It owns more than 3,000 journals including Nature and Scientific American. In November 2017, Springer Nature was also condemned for cooperating with its Chinese partners and blocking at least several hundred articles on Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, and politics from its Chinese website.

According to the website of the Eye Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Eye and Vision is an international English journal sponsored by the Wenzhou Medical University. It was launched in October 2014. Qu Jia, the director of the Eye Optometry Hospital is the chief editor. The journal was set up under China’s initiative to “improve the international influence of China’s Science and Technology Journal” which is a plan backed by the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The goal is to “open a channel to improve the globalization of journals in the Chinese scientific research community.”

It has become a new trend for China to start publishing journals on its own, to cooperate with foreign publishers, or to acquire foreign publishers directly. “Chinese technology and culture going global” is a phrase that the official Chinese media have often used. In 2019, the Chinese Academy of Sciences Holding Company acquired the French EDP Sciences publishing house founded by famous scientists, including Madame Curie. Xinhua reported at the time that this was an important step for China Science and Technology to implement its globalization strategy.

Source: Radio Free Asia, August 26, 2020