China compiles its own Wikipedia
05 May 2017 - 21:19
Beijing: It'll be free. It'll be uniquely Chinese. It'll be an online encyclopedia to rival Wikipedia — but without the participation of the public. And don't expect entries on "Tiananmen Square 1989" or "Falun Gong spiritual group" to come up in your searches, either.
Scholars and experts hand-picked by Beijing to work on the project say only they will be able to make entries — the latest example of the Chinese government's efforts to control information available on the internet.
The scholars say truth is their guiding light, and their editing and review process is a rigorous one. If there is a difference of opinion, a committee should figure it out, said Zhang Baichun, chief editor of the history of science and technology section. "Of course, science does not come from democratic votes, to convince others you will have to present the most convincing proof," he told The Associated Press.
The effort to compile 300,000 entries that span science, literature, politics and history is being led by the ruling Communist Party's Central Propaganda Department, which guides public opinion through instructions to China's media, internet companies and publishing industry as well as overseeing the education sector. It has instructed the Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, known for its offline Chinese Encyclopedia, to produce it.
The ruling party has struggled to manage public opinion in the internet age, when citizens can comment on news and topics of outrage and post photos of protests on social media — at least until such messages are scrubbed away or rendered unsearchable by censors. China also regularly blocks overseas sites including Facebook and Twitter, and has periodically blocked Wikipedia's English and Chinese versions. Currently, the Chinese Wikipedia is inaccessible on the mainland.
Jiang Lijun, senior editor at the Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, said they had met with a team from San Francisco-based Wikipedia to learn from their experience.