China's New Online Encyclopedia Aims To Surpass Wikipedia, And To 'Guide And Lead' The Public

from the great-wall-of-culture dept

China has a long history of producing encyclopedias that goes back thousands of years. One of the most famous works is the fifteenth-century Yongle encyclopedia, which had over 15,000 volumes, and is still the largest paper-based general encyclopedia ever created. More recently, the main publication in this field was the Encyclopedia of China, whose first edition had 74 volumes. Later, CD-ROM and online versions were added. The third edition has just been announced, and although it is not quite on the scale of the Yongle encyclopedia, it is ambitious in its scope:

The third edition of the Chinese Encyclopaedia is currently China’s largest publication project, with more than 20,000 authors from universities and research institutes contributing to articles in more than 100 disciplines.

Designed to be the nation’s first digital book of “everything”, it will feature more than 300,000 entries, each about 1,000 words long, making it twice as large as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and about the same size as the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia.

As the article in the South China Morning Post notes, access to Wikipedia is patchy in China. Most of the uncontroversial articles can be read, but searches for sensitive keywords such as “Dalai Lama” and even “Xi Jinping,” have a habit of timing out. The new project is clearly designed to steer people towards safer opinions:

“The Chinese Encyclopaedia is not a book, but a Great Wall of culture,” Yang Muzhi, the editor-in-chief of the project and the chairman of the Book and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, told senior scientists at a meeting at the headquarters of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing on April 12, according to a report on the academy?s website the next day.

Yang told the meeting China was under international pressure and felt an urgent need to produce its own encyclopaedia to “guide and lead the public and society”.

Speaking of Wikipedia, Yang went on:

“The readers regarded it to be authoritative, accurate, and it branded itself as a ‘free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit’, which is quite bewitching,” he wrote. “But we have the biggest, most high-quality author team in the world … our goal is not to catch up, but overtake.”

China certainly has the resources to complete this huge project by 2018, its planned launch date. And once those 300,000 entries are available to “guide and lead the public,” it’s hard not to think that accessing the rival Wikipedia will be made so hard that most people will give up trying, and stick with the new Chinese Encyclopedia. At that point, the Chinese authorities will indeed have created a “Great Wall of culture” to complement that Great Firewall of China, both designed to keep out all those inconvenient ideas.

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Comments on “China's New Online Encyclopedia Aims To Surpass Wikipedia, And To 'Guide And Lead' The Public”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Geez...

you are ridiculous….China is not invading all the middle east, has not made infinite coup de etats in latinamerican, and certainly have never used an atomic bomb on innocent people (hello USA).

what are you talking about? you idiot.

USA is the one and only boogeyman and that is why nobody likes them.

Bergman (profile) says:

All you need to judge the accuracy of the new encyclopedia...

Is to search it for the word “Taiwan.”

The PRC is a young nation founded by a pack of rebels, that considers Taiwan to be a rebellious province, not a separate nation.

The thing is, the proper name for the nation of Taiwan is The Legitimate Chinese Government-in-exile. There are good reasons for the two to dislike the other, and that’s the biggie.

Taiwan is run by the descendants of the government bureaucrats that the PRC rebels failed to murder.

DB (profile) says:

A question that is perhaps off topic. Or squarely on topic.

How many projects on Github use the phrase “aims to”, and are abandoned a few months later?

My observation, dating back at least 15 years to when sourceforge pioneered site-based community building and collaboration, is that “aims to” is highly correlated to getting 20% completed and then SQUIRREL!

Anonymous Coward says:

How do they block the articles?

As the article in the South China Morning Post notes, access to Wikipedia is patchy in China. Most of the uncontroversial articles can be read, but searches for sensitive keywords such as "Dalai Lama" and even "Xi Jinping," have a habit of timing out.

Everything on Wikipedia has been SSL-protected for several years now, so how do they know which articles people are reading? Some kind of traffic analysis?

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