“Yet something is different this time around [Springer Nature acceding to Chinese censorship versus Cambrudge University Press first acceding to Chinese censorship and quickly reversing its decision]. By this point in the Cambridge controversy, six days after the news broke, the press had already reversed its initial cowardly decision. There is no sign that Springer Nature is about to experience any such change of heart. In its most recent statement, Springer again emphasized that it is simply abiding by “China’s regulatory requirements”. And on Saturday, Chinese state media announced a new “strategic partnership” between Springer and Chinese IT censorship and monitoring giant Tencent, purportedly to encourage scientific innovation. Springer is also publishing the English translation of the latest tome in Xi Jinping’s rapidly proliferating corpus, Xi Jinping Tells a Story. If this is not a case of doubling down, I don’t know what is.
Why, then, have these two parallel cases of censorship unfolded so differently within the narrow span of just three months? One factor could be the respective publishers’ stakes in the China market….
If none of the factors above can explain the different courses of the two censorship scandals, another more distressing explanation, and a possibility that I have come to consider increasingly likely in recent days, is that these types of attacks on academic freedom for access to the China market could gradually become the new normal for all of us: shocking the first time, but gradually something to which we will all grow accustomed.
Springer has been the most determined proponent of such normalization of censorship, claiming that this is simply a matter of obeying the law….
In the face of such obstinate and self-serving cowardice, we as academics and readers need to recapture our shock….
Springer’s “legal” actions are of benefit to no one besides itself and the increasingly retrogressive Xi regime and are a disservice to its forward-looking content providers and consumers- writers, reviewers, and readers. Authors and reviewers who have volunteered their time to a for-profit company are having their trust violated by overeager censors. Meanwhile, readers in China are being turned into second-class readers in a secret agreement between the Xi regime and Springer, which leaves them paying full price but denied full access in a condescendingly separate and unequal arrangement that will directly impede Springer’s stated goal of “discovery.” And the insults don’t stop there- the wholesale deletion of “Tibet” and “Taiwan,” indiscriminately erasing entire peoples from the academic record, should be met with revulsion in a global academic community increasingly vigilant against such racism….
Until Springer takes these steps to correct these outrages, all academics who care about academic freedom and the rights and dignity of the Chinese people should refuse to work or write for Springer Nature or any of its subsidiaries (BioMed Central, Palgrave Macmillan, Nature, Scientific American, Adis Internation, Apress, Macmillan Education) in any form. Only then will Springer be reminded of whom they really rely upon for their success….”