Known as the “Chinese Encyclopedia,” the country’s national encyclopedia was first published in book form in 1993. The new online edition will go live for the first time in 2018 and will be the largest and most comprehensive version so far in the series.
The Chinese Encyclopedia will however, not be open to editing by the army of volunteers, that currently add and edit articles like they do on Wikipedia. Instead, Chinese officials have said that the articles will be written by a team of scholars and experts from universities and research institutes.
More than 20,000 people have allegedly been hired to work on the project, and the Chinese encyclopedia will feature some 300,000 articles, each about 1,000 words in length.
At over 720 million users, China has the world’s largest internet user base, but it also has some of the world’s most restrictive internet laws. Content on Wikipedia is routinely blocked by China’s Great Firewall, a highly sophisticated system that blocks content critical of the ruling Chinese Communist party.
“The Chinese Encyclopedia is not a book, but a Great Wall of culture,” said Yang Muzhi, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese Encyclopedia, in April. He went on to say that China was under pressure internationally to commit to producing an online encyclopedia that would “guide and lead the public and society”.
Chinese internet companies like Qihoo 360 and Baidu currently have their own online encyclopedias, but are small in comparison to Wikipedia. China is also not the first country to create a rival to Wikipedia.
In 2014, Russia also announced plans for an alternative version of Wikipedia, with the stated aim of providing better information about the country than was available on the platform, but which has been criticized for its pro-Putin stance and revisionist view of history.