China’s largest online academic database suspends foreign subscribers

China’s largest online academic database, CNKI, has notified foreign subscribers of a suspension to some of its databases starting April 1.

The suspension is part of a trend of academic and technological decoupling between China and the West due to Covid-19 restrictions and rising political tensions.

CNKI is an invaluable resource for academics studying China, as it provides access to Chinese language media sources, academic journal articles and government almanacks.

Even more concerning is that the suspension appears to be part of a wider regulatory push by Beijing to restrict the free flow of information.

As a result, many academics will have their access to other Chinese research platforms and data sets terminated, leading them to rely on virtual private networks for access.

The current move may be related to Beijing’s wariness of online data scraping in the race over control of big data.

Restrictions on access impede foreign scholars’ ability to understand China which can have broad ripple effects on their valuable opinions in public debate and policymaking.