China’s Internet is surrounded by the Great Firewall, which holds government-critical voices from the country. Instead of only censoring content, the Chinese government now creates its own: with a state-financed Chinese variant of Wikipedia.
Since its launch in 2001, the English-language section of Wikipedia has grown to 5,662,928 articles. Around 800 new entries are added daily. Although every Internet user can change the texts that appear on the platform, repressive regimes block access to the world to keep their citizens from seeing their critical content.
In the end, Turkey blocked access to Wikipedia and accused the pageant of refusing to delete certain content. Also, Russia has recently expressed a temporary ban against Wikipedia. China is already known for its online censorship. That is why the government in Beijing has now decided to go online with its own encyclopedia.
According to the South China Morning Post, 20,000 employees currently work on the third edition of Chinese Encyclopaedia. When the project is ready, it is to go online with 300,000 articles with 1000 words each.
“The Chinese Encyclopaedia is not a book but a cultural Great Wall,” said Yang Muzhi according to the South China Morning Post. He is the chief editor of the project. The site was intended to “guide and lead public opinion.”
Academics from universities and research institutes from all over the country were asked to write articles for the Chinese Encyclopaedia. Yang said the goal was to overtake Wikipedia when the first version of the project goes online in early 2018.
At this time it is still unclear how large the influence of the Chinese government on the entries will be. What is certain is that content that is not wanted by the regime has been blocked by the Great Firewall of China.
Since its establishment, much Chinese have demonstrated how they can be circumvented using VPNs. The government announced in January 2017 that it would be harder to interfere with blocking foreign content and services.
The new encyclopedia will not only have to contend with censors but also with the competition. The Chinese Internet giants Baidu and Qihoo 360 already offer their own online reference books. And although China blocks much content online, Chinese users can use a limited version of Wikipedia. It contains only one-fifth of all articles of the original.