Screenshot of China HowNet.

(taken from HowNet website)

[Compiler Guan Shuping/Comprehensive Report] Japan's "Nikkei Asia" reported on the 23rd that according to foreign universities and research institutions, China's largest academic database "CNKI" will reduce the use of foreign scholars.

The move adds to concerns that doing research in China will become increasingly difficult as Beijing tightens data security.

The report pointed out that many libraries around the world, including the City University of Hong Kong, the University of California, San Diego, and the Academia Sinica Institute of Chinese Philosophy in Taiwan, have been notified that in order to ensure that "cross-border services comply with the law," they will Cut their access to the China Knowledge Infrastructure Project (CNKI) platform from April 1.

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It is unclear how many academic research institutions have received the notice issued by CNKI operator "Beijing Tongfang Knowledge Network Technology Company" on March 17, but at least 12 have confirmed to Nikkei Asia Notification, and that other agencies have also received it.

The German database provider CrossAsia notified its clients last week that the access to four CNKI databases will be suspended; a university library in Hong Kong said it was told that the access would be suspended for 6 months and there was no guarantee that it would be restored later .

CNKI provides academic circles access to 95% of Chinese academic journals, which is an important research tool and exclusive for scholars who cannot access materials in Chinese libraries.

In recent years, it has become more and more difficult to use Chinese databases from abroad. Commercial platforms such as "Tianyancha" refuse overseas users. The "China Research Service Center" of the Chinese University, which has the most complete collection in Hong Kong, has been closed in 2020.

Early last year, China amended the law to strengthen national data security. The State Cyberspace Administration pointed out in June that HowNet has sensitive information such as important national research projects and key technology developments, and is investigating the platform to prevent risks related to data and national security.

A few days ago, China carried out government and party organization reforms, and established a new National Data Bureau to centrally manage data security.

However, even if CNKI restores the use rights of foreign users, the content of the database, especially scientific and technological research materials involving sensitive fields, may be filtered.

Mark Witzke, a senior analyst at Rhodium Consulting, who specializes in China's economic analysis, said that if the authority is permanently revoked, academics, policymakers and business circles will lose another reliable source of information about China, which will make decision-making even more difficult. Release rumors, unfounded speculation, and motivated reasoning to fill the gap.