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Enduring hardships in global knowledge asymmetries: a national scenario of China’s English-language academic journals in the humanities and social sciences


Since the 2000s, China has been fast establishing English-language academic journals to further internationalize research. This article delineates a national scenario of such journals in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) and explores their efforts and predicaments in bringing China’s HSS research to the world. Based on first-hand data collected empirically through interviews and documents, it shows that HSS English-language journals in China attempt to challenge yet are conditioned at the same time by the imbalanced international knowledge structure. While still at a preliminary stage of development in terms of quantity and quality, the journals have already been confronted with major challenges including English language hurdles, unfavorable position in research evaluation systems, unfamiliarity with standards of international academic writing and publishing, and tensions between international ambition and local commitment. This article argues that HSS journals in non-Western societies including China need to strike a balance between their contemporary bid for international visibility and long-term contribution to multiple perspectives in global HSS research.

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  1. Hereinafter in this article, “China” is used to refer to “Mainland China” for short. Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are not included for discussion because their academic systems are different from that of Mainland China.

  2. This article addresses China’s HSS English-language journals launched in or before October 2018. After fieldwork, some new journals were established such as Beijing International Review of Education based at Beijing Normal University. They are not included in this study.

  3. Chinese Social Sciences Citation Index (CSSCI) published by Nanjing University is an authoritative citation index commonly used in Mainland China to measure HSS journals in the Chinese language. Usually it does not include English-language journals.


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The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Special thanks are due to all participants in this study for generously sharing their insights.

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Correspondence to Mengyang Li.

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Li, M., Yang, R. Enduring hardships in global knowledge asymmetries: a national scenario of China’s English-language academic journals in the humanities and social sciences . High Educ 80, 237–254 (2020).

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  • English-language scholarly journals
  • Humanities
  • Social sciences
  • China
  • Academic dependency
  • Global knowledge flows