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China to Create its Own Version of Wikipedia


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The Chinese government is creating its own version of the online source of information, Wikipedia.

China’s version is expected to be released next year. It will include around 300,000 entries on subjects including science, literature, history and politics. The government chose professors and experts to write the entries.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is edited almost completely by the public.

The Chinese version will be written by experts chosen by the government.

The writers say truth is their guiding light, and their editing process will be demanding. Zhang Baichun is chief editor of the history of science and technology section. He said that if there are any differences of opinion about facts, a committee will try to solve the problem.

He told the Associated Press, "Of course, science does not come from democratic votes, to convince others you will have to present the most convincing proof."

This project is led by the Communist Party's central propaganda department. It tries to form public opinion through instructions to China's media, internet companies and publishing industry. It also oversees education. The department has instructed the Encyclopedia of China Publishing House to produce the project.

A Chinese man walks by a cabinets displaying Chinese encyclopedias at a book store in Beijing, May 4, 2017.
A Chinese man walks by a cabinets displaying Chinese encyclopedias at a book store in Beijing, May 4, 2017.

Managing information

The Chinese government attempts to control what information is shared on the internet. However, citizens comment on news or post photos on social media all the time. Chinese censors then try to remove unwanted posts or block some messages from being searched.

China also regularly blocks overseas sites, including Facebook and Twitter. It also has blocked Wikipedia's English and Chinese versions at times.

Jiang Lijun is a top editor at the Encyclopedia of China Publishing House. She said that her group plans to write entries on political leaders, the history of the Communist Party, and subjects including virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the European Union.

Jiang also said the encyclopedia will write entries about subjects that are less likely to change, or with academic value, rather than current events. However, she said they will try to “strike a balance between…being timely and what people are searching for."

Jiang chose not to comment on how the website would present events that are politically sensitive in China. These include the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

“Quite different” from Wikipedia

Qiao Mu is an independent media analyst in Beijing. He said the Chinese Encyclopedia would be "quite different" from Wikipedia. It will have to follow rules on presenting disputed information.

"If it's not blocked in China, the publisher must accept censorship, either self-censorship or censored by authorities," he said.

EU Turkey Wikipedia
EU Turkey Wikipedia

He said the encyclopedia would probably only present one official version of sensitive historical events. It will likely not include items like the Tiananmen Square protests or the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group. Currently, these items cannot be found on the internet in China.

Jiang said that the encyclopedia will only be in the Chinese language at first. However, her group is researching if a version in English would be possible. She also said they met with a team from Wikipedia to learn from their experience creating the online encyclopedia.

Wikipedia is edited by hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world. The site has more than 40 million articles, and is available in nearly 300 languages. More than 900,000 entries are in Chinese, compared with more than 5 million in English.

Jiang says, "there is Chinese content on Wikipedia too, but sometimes it is not as accurate as it could be.”

Encyclopedia editor Zhang Baichun also is a professor of the history of science and technology. He said the online version will make it easier to reach more and younger readers.

Zhang said there is a process to create entries for sections like the history of science and technology. He said first the professors from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Natural Sciences hold meetings with experienced and young experts in their fields to form a committee. The committee then finds the most knowledgeable person on a topic to write a version of the article.

The version is then reviewed by a section chief editor, and finally by the committee.

"If there is a difference of opinion, all deputy and chief editors should participate in the discussion and figure it out together," Zhang said. "We will reason things out with the author until we reach an agreement, or change the author."

I’m Jill Robbins.

And I'm Phil Dierking.

­­­­­­­­­­­­This story was originally written for Associated Press. Phil Dierking adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

censor - n. a person who examines books, movies, letters, etc., and removes things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, harmful to society, etc.​

controversial - adj. relating to or causing much discussion, disagreement, or argument : likely to produce controversy​

encyclopedia - n. a reference work that contains information about many different subjects or a lot of information about a particular subject​

edit - adj. to make changes, correct mistakes, etc.

entry - n. the act of entering something in a book, list, etc.​

participate - v. to be involved with others in doing something : to take part in an activity or event with others​

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