In competition to Wikipedia, China is planning to launch its own online encyclopedia next year.
Chinese officials revealed that more than 20,000 people have already been hired to create the project which will contain 300,000 records of about a 1000 words each.
However, unlike Wikipedia, this source will be developed by selected state-run university’s scholars instead of being editable by writers openly.
While Wikipedia is available in China, some of its content is blocked.
Yang Muzhi who is the chairperson of the Books and Periodical Distribution Association of China and editor-in-chief of the project, revealed earlier in April that this Chinese Encyclopedia is not a book but ‘a great wall of culture’.
He stated that the encyclopedia wishes to promote the nation’s scientific and technological progresses, uphold historical legacy, and fortify the essential values of socialism.
With a staggering 720 million internet users, China’s online population is the largest in the world.
As Muzhi listed Wikipedia as a competitor, he also added that the country was facing pressure from international bodies to create its own platform that can assist in guiding the public and society.
It was in 1993 that the Encyclopedia of China was initially published on paper by scholars whereas its second edition was released in 2012.
However, its critics claimed that the works which were funded by the government omitted and distorted some of the entries due to political reasons.
Although the notion for an online version of the site was accepted in 2011, work for it began just recently.
The release of this Chinese encyclopedia will put the government in heads-on competition with local online encyclopedias like Baidu and Qihu 360 along with the largest platform that is Wikipedia.
Today Chinese users can read content on Wikipedia given that it’s not related to sensitive topics which are entirely blocked for example about the Dalai Lama or President Xi Jinping.
A researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute Taha Yasseri explained that driven by the need for information the Chinese public currently accesses Wikipedia through using anti-filtering methods which is something that the authoritarian state does not like.
Hence their new efforts in a state owned and controlled platform is a way for the government to direct users towards their state-controlled content.
However a colleague of Yasseri, Joss Wright added that the platform can work to offer a more exclusively local experience that Chinese users often like.
Using the word ‘bewitching’ Mr. Yang described the influence and appeal of Wikipedia amongst the Chinese masses, to a newspaper last year.
However, he added to that with the claim that for their encyclopedia, they have the largest and the best-qualified team of authors in the world.
He stated that their goal was not to catch up to Wikipedia but rather to ‘overtake’ it.
Other than China and its censorship, just last week Turkey imposed a full ban to the website relating it to the unstable political environment of the country after the failed coup attempt last year.