China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) launched an antitrust investigation into China’s largest online academic database China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) on May 13, as reported by South China Morning Post on the same day. The probe came after China’s top research group, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), suspended access to CNKI journal articles in April due to its continuous rise of subscription fees. Prior to CAS’s complaint about unreasonable subscription prices, at least six Chinese universities had suspended the use of CNKI for the same reason. In response to the scrutiny, CNKI stated that it would cooperate fully with the probe and rectify its operation model.
CNKI collected more than 280m academic articles and over 9,300 journals, covering over 90% of all published journals in the Chinese mainland. The company has long faced accusations of collecting academic articles without authorization and withholding profits from the authors of collected articles. In 2019, Zhao Dexin, a retired professor at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, accused CNKI of collecting more than 100 academic papers he wrote without notifying him. After two years of lawsuit, CNKI eventually apologized to Professor Zhao and paid him RMB700,000 in compensation, removing his articles from the database. Nevertheless, most students and researchers in China cannot afford to have their papers removed, as publication on CNKI is an important criterion for measuring their academic abilities.