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Leaning to One Side: The Impact of the Cold War on Chinese Library Collections

Priscilla C. Yu
Libraries & Culture
Vol. 36, No. 1, Books, Libraries, Reading, and Publishing in the Cold War (Winter, 2001), pp. 253-266
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25548906
Page Count: 14
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Leaning to One Side: The Impact of the Cold War on Chinese Library Collections
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Abstract

Membership in the Soviet Union-led Communist bloc and the economic embargo imposed by the West led to China's reliance on the Soviet bloc in library development. To spur economic reconstruction and consolidate political power after founding the Communist regime, the Chinese government restructured all libraries to help implement government objectives. The Chinese learned and adopted principles and practices of Soviet librarianship. Russian materials on library science, science, and industry as well as Communist classics were imported or translated into Chinese. The Soviet Union's strong influence on Chinese library collections was demonstrated by analyzing foreign language collections at Peking University Library and the National Library of China (NLC), examining data covering developments primarily in the 1950s and the 1960s. Russian language publications dominated the foreign language collection at Peking University Library from 1953 to 1974. Russian scientific publications outnumbered humanities and social science materials by a ratio of 9 to 1, reflecting China's information needs for its drive toward modernization during its First Five-Year Plan (1953-57). The Russian language collection also predominated over other foreign language materials at the NLC in 1958 and 1959. Besides increased purchasing efforts, the NLC established exchange programs with the Soviet Union's libraries and eventually other countries to acquire costly foreign scientific publications needed for China's economic development. Despite Soviet assistance in library development, the Cold War denied China equal access to all foreign language materials and knowledge, thus hindering China's modernization effort. Chinese libraries can best serve China's developmental goals through the international free and open flow of information.

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