China appears to have finally decided that if Wikipedia will not comply with its requests to restrict information, then it will just have to make its own Wikipedia with Chinese characteristics.
By 2018, China plans to have a massive online encyclopedia that is created by a carefully-selected group of scholars from universities and state-sponsored think tanks, rather than by web users. This third edition of the Chinese Encyclopedia will be China’s biggest-ever publication project, involving 20,000 experts writing 300,000 entries, each of which will be about 1,000 words long, making it twice as long as the Encyclopedia Britannica.
At a meeting last month in Beijing, Yang Muzhi, the project’s chief editor, said that the online encyclopedia will be “not a book, but a Great Wall of Culture,” which will “guide and lead the public and society.”
Citing Wikipedia as a competitor in a December newspaper article, Yang emphasized that China needs to hurry up and get its own reference information source onto the web, but added that “our goal is not to catch up, but overtake,” reasoning that a group of scholars and experts could provide better and more complete information than could a group of volunteers.
“Which encyclopedia in the world has such a big writer team of high quality?” he wrote, via Quartz. “We can be confident to say that the contents of Chinese Encyclopedia are accurate, authoritative and guaranteed.”
The project was first approved way back in 2011 by China’s State Council as an update to two previously published state-backed encyclopedias, which are not widely read because they have not been published online.
Thanks to the Great Firewall, Wikipedia is also not widely read in China. To fill in the gap, internet giants like Baidu have set up their own versions of Wikipedia which welcome user-submitted content, but also is subject to the final approval of state censors.
Presumably, on the Chinese Encyclopedia user edits will not be allowed.
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