Chinese influence has a long arm. Academics far, far away from Asia sometimes modify their behavior lest Beijing disapprove of their words or deeds and take countermeasures. Military people are always talking about “access” to Asian waters and skies these days, but scholars confront their own form of anti-access. By denying would-be entrants access to the country, and by trusting that word of its displeasure will get around, Beijing can impose what the ACLU calls a “chilling effect” on scholarship critical of China. Message: excessive candor will elicit costly reprisals.
In effect Beijing sets individuals’ career incentives against their commitment to principle, and trusts that the former will win out. Who doesn’t think of his livelihood and family first? Researchers who fear being denied visas may self-censor their words in order not to offend. Or they may abjure sensitive topics—Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen being the unholy trinity—altogether. Abstract principle just isn’t worth the risk to one’s tenure, promotion, or other career milestones. Better to keep to safer, apolitical ground.
Kina kommer att säcka. Klarar man inte att folk ens utomlands har andra idéer och straffar utlänningar för vad de forskar - då är det implosion på horisonten inom 10 år.