The rise of China as a scientific research superpower has been frequently discussed in media and literature.Since 2003, China’s publication in Science Citation Index (SCI) has increased fivefold and now China publishes more papers1 than any other country.China has also created many funding programs, aiming to build world-class universities, attract talented scholars, and target specific disciplines2 for transiting to a knowledge-based economy.The rapid rise of China has made other top research nations (US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan) gradually lose their shares3, first in numbers of publications, then in citations, and now in highly cited works.Previous works have pointed out that papers in China are increasingly cited by researchers in China4.
Case Study of Tibet:
At China’s 2014 National People’s Congress, Zheng Gang, a local official in southern Hainan province and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, proposed changing the English translation of the name of Tibet, claiming that “Tibet” would serve Dalai Lama’s interests.English-language editions of prominent Chinese state media outlets have gradually incorporated “Xizang” in place of “Tibet” since 2019. Notable examples include the party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, and the nationalist tabloid, Global Times. Furthermore, the state-run Xinhua news agency and the English-language reports of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) have also begun adopting the term “Xizang” in their coverage.
On 10 Oct 2023, the Chinese media and the official account of the United Front Work Department (UFWD 统战部) of the Communist Party of China, “United Front News6,” touted that “there is no more Tibet in the official documents of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs7.”In the English transcript of Wang Yi’s speech8 at the opening ceremony of the Third Trans-Himalaya Forum for International Cooperation9 on 5 Oct 2023 at Nyingchi in Tibet (林芝), Xizang was used throughout the copy. There is an intriguing clue to how Chinese diplomats, academicians, scientists, scholarly community and its state media are moving to reframe debates over sovereignty and human rights in Tibet, and with the most basic of tools: the place name.Speakers of Mandarin educated in the pinyin system, created by Zhou Youguang10 in the 1950s, shortly after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, will instantly recognize “Xizang” as the pinyin rendering of Tibet (西藏) — which in the local Tibetan language11 is called “Bod” (བོད་).
In a bid to reshape Tibet’s international perception and further integrate the region into China’s narrative, Chinese academics have proposed a change in nomenclature12, urging the use of “Xizang 西藏” over “Tibet” when referring to the occupied country in English. Professor Wang Linping 王林平, a scholar affiliated with the College of Marxism at Harbin Engineering University was a prominent voice behind this proposal. He contended that the term “Tibet” had inaccurately portrayed the geographical boundaries of the region, consequently “fostering misunderstandings” among the global community. However, Tibet, as universally understood as a cultural and historical realm13, is not the modern “Xizang.”Another scholar from the official China Tibetological Research Centre, LianXiangmin (廉湘民), argued that the use of “Xizang” complies with the law14. He said the translation change was related to the “power of the discourse” on Tibet. Prof Wang emphasized the importance of adopting “Xizang,” which represents the Chinese romanization (Hanyu Pinyin 汉语拼音) of Tibet, as a more precise designation reflecting the true scope of the region.The seminar’s official report emphasized a critical aspect of the issue: the term
“Tibet” as commonly used globally encompasses regions that extend beyond the borders of the so- called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR 西藏自治区)15.This broader interpretation includes Tibetan areas within Chinese provinces such as the so-called Qinghai 青海, Sichuan 四川, Gansu 甘肃, and Yunnan 云南. This move is consistent with Beijing’s broader propaganda strategy, articulated by President Xi Jinping during the 2017 Party Congress. It is reported that the strategy aims to foster a “sense of community for the Chinese nation” while promoting the use of Chinese to reinforce national identity within ethnic minority regions.
Critics argue that this linguistic shift underscores China’s ongoing efforts to shape and control the narrative surrounding Tibet. The tactic has been employed to other occupied regions as well by China to suit their narrative; East Turkestan is now widely being referred to as “Xinjang” by the international community.There are also opposing voices to Chinese renaming of Tibet. Qu Weiguo 曲卫国, a professor at the Department of English Language and Literature at Fudan University 复旦大学, said in his WeChat official account article titled “Xizang cannot be translated into Tibet, then is it appropriate to call Xianggangas Hong Kong?16” “Changing the name of a province should be a very serious matter”, he emphasized. Continuing the directives of Chinese government officials, majority of Chinese academicians, in blind adherence to CPC, are referring to Tibet as Xizang in prestigious natural science and social science journals. Given the increasing stature of Chinese authors in global academia, the subtle usage has myriad political connotations, imbibed deep in research articles17. In the case of Tibet, “Xizang” has no relation to the Tibetan language or culture. A quick search on Google Scholar using the term “Xizang” gives a whopping 64900+ results using the said keyword in research articles.
The number of social science articles published by Chinese authors in international journals has experienced a noticeable increase, and the collaboration networks of researchers from China have broadened, with the number of articles with a Chinese first author showing a strong upward trend.Although Chinese scholars do not change the perceived publication capabilities of many countries but may have reshaped their research culture as well as workforce distributions.The social sciences not only study culture and society but may also collaborate with, influence and improve culture and society in domains such as economic and social development, policy design, public administration, legislation, education, sustainable urban and rural life, media and information, international affairs, and global understanding. The Chinese usage of term “Zangnan 藏南” or “South Xizang” is an inappropriate reference to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. By using politically incorrect terms instead of academically neutral terms, Chinese authors are distorting the reality of Tibet and other geopolitically contested regions. A quick search of Zangnanon Google Scholar reflects 33000+ results, reflecting the serious penetration of Chinese political terms in academia.
Independent Tibetan scholars overseas warn that China is sending many official scholars to international academic conferences on Tibetan research to try to change people’s ideas about Tibet18. Undoubtedly, the remarks of pro-government scholars in official academic institutes have made it clear what the Chinese authorities’ real political aim in this matter is. Thus, the over proliferation of Chinese authors in academia, publishing politically incorrect terms in research articles, is a major threat to subaltern. The continued incorrect usage (lies), if not rectified, will eventually change the reality (truth).
1https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsb20221/u-s-and-global-research-and-development 2https://doi.org/10.1126%2Fscience.351.6280.1382 3https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.joi.2014.05.002 4https://doi.org/10.1038%2Fd41586-018-07695-1
5https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-23024-z 6http://m.tibet.cn/cn/news/zx/202308/t20230816_7468614.html 7https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/china-tibet-xizang-10122023021833.html 8https://english.news.cn/20231006/28cb0770b68b4d5780146c1975896dca/c.html 9http://www.chinamission.be/eng/mhs/t1915777.htm 10https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38621697 11https://www.jstor.org/stable/43300435