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Sensitive words – China’s latest top news


Publisher of Nature and Scientific American censors for China

The Financial Times reports (paywall) that Springer Nature, a German-owned publisher of academic journals and science magazines such as Nature and Scientific American, has “blocked access in China to at least 1,000 articles.” In August, a similar decision by Cambridge University Press (CUP) was reversed after an outcry from academics.

  • Springer Nature is owned by a for-profit company, while CUP is owned by a university, so a similar outcry might not achieve the same results.
  • The FT says its own research showed that more than 1,000 articles were not available in China on the websites of the Journal of Chinese Political Science and International Politics. The affected articles contained “sensitive” keywords, including Taiwan, Tibet, and Cultural Revolution.
  • The article quotes Jonathan Sullivan, director of the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute and author of one of the censored articles: “It’s a symbol of how unprepared we are in the West for China’s influence expanding outwards.” You can read more of Sullivan’s thoughts on the affair on CPI Analysis.

Did China sell arms to apartheid South Africa?

News24, a news website owned by Naspers, a South African media company that owns around 30 percent of Chinese internet behemoth Tencent, has published an article based on research into declassified documents from South Africa’s apartheid era that says the apartheid government boughts arms from China, starting in 1980.

  • The arms were routed via Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and distributed to guerrilla movements that the apartheid government supported in Mozambique and Angola.
  • At the same time, South Africa was selling “power station cooling technology, communications systems for mining, minerals, maize and even brandy and fruit juice” to China.

A 21-year-old American dreaming the Chinese Dream

Global Voices reports on 21-year-old American Dylan Austin Walker, who sings praises of President Xi Jinping on Chinese TV and speaks, in fluent Chinese, about his admiration for Xi and the Communist Party of China. The article includes videos of Walker’s singing and thoughts on Xi.

Correction: It is a worm!

Thanks to Ben Hughes for pointing out the error in yesterday’s newsletter: We said that “the Chinese name of caterpillar fungus aka Himalayan Viagra (冬虫夏草 dōngchóngxiàcǎo) means ‘winter worm, summer grass’ because the fungus is said to look like a worm in the winter and grass in the summer.” In fact, the caterpillar fungus is an entomopathogenic fungus: In other words, it is a fungus, but it parasitizes the actual larvae of moths, using their corpses as substrate to grow. So it’s a fungus, but it kinda starts out as the body of a caterpillar, meaning that it meets the general definition of a “worm.” See Wikipedia for more.

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.