China compiles its own ‘Wikipedia,’ but public can’t edit it

China compiles its own 'Wikipedia,' but public can't edit it

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. They have 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 in the mainland.

Jiang Lijun, senior editor at the Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, said Thursday that they plan to have entries on political leaders, the history of the Communist Party, and subjects including virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the European Union.

The online Chinese Encyclopedia will focus primarily on entries that are less likely to change as opposed to recent events, and with academic value, “while also trying to strike a balance between that, being timely and what people are searching for,” she said. She declined to comment on how events that are politically sensitive in China, like the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, would be treated.

Qiao Mu, an independent media analyst in Beijing, said the Chinese Encyclopedia would be “quite different” from Wikipedia because of the need to toe the line on political taboos.

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

He said the encyclopedia would likely present a single, official version of sensitive historical events, and exclude items like the Tiananmen crackdown and the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group, which “never exist on the internet.”

The publishing house behind the Chinese Encyclopedia is paying 20,000 scholars and experts from universities and research institutes to write entries and it is slated to go online next year. Jiang said initially the encyclopedia will just be in Chinese, but they are also doing research to see how viable an English version would be.

Jiang said they met with a team from San Francisco-based Wikipedia to learn from their experience.

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

“There is Chinese content on Wikipedia too, but sometimes it is not as accurate as it could be,” said Jiang.

Jiang said that as Wikipedia’s content is generated by users, they can create more entries faster. “But we try to eliminate self-promotion and inaccuracy as much as possible.”

Zhang, the professor of history of science and technology, said the online version will make it easier to reach more people, particularly young readers.

To create the history of science and technology entries, Zhang said professors from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Natural Sciences first hold meetings with veterans and young experts in their fields to form a committee. The committee will then find the most authoritative person on the topic to write the draft, including sometimes foreign experts, said Zhang, who is director of the institute.

The draft is reviewed by a section chief editor and then 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.”

___

Follow Louise Watt on Twitter at twitter.com/louise_watt

Louise Watt, The Associated Press

Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kendra Thomas from Warmland Women’s Support Services invites Cowichan residents to find out more about youth sex trafficking with an online event Nov. 16, 2020. (File photo)
Learn more about youth sex trafficking with ‘Love Bombing 101’

Nov. 22-28 is Victims and Survivors of Crime Week

Pnina Benyamini loved to be around people and people loved her. (Photo submitted)
Many facets to energetic Chemainus woman’s legacy

Benyamini taught yoga, belly dancing and more to an adoring public

Windy conditions in Nanaimo’s Lost Lake area. (News Bulletin file photo)
Wind warning issued for the east coast of Vancouver Island

Environment Canada says people ‘should be on the lookout’ for adverse weather conditions

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone has been re-elected as chairman of the board at the CVRD. (File photo)
Aaron Stone re-elected as chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District

Blaise Salmon, director for Mill Bay/Malahat, elected as new vice-chairman

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Parksville’s French Creek Harbour experienced a diesel spill on Nov. 23 after a barge and fishing vessel collided. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Coast Guard cleans up diesel spill in Parksville’s French Creek Harbour

Barge carrying fuel truck collides with fishing vessel

Stock photo
Senior from Gibsons caught viewing child porn sentenced to 10 months

74-year-old pleaded guilty after police seized 1,500-2,500 images

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Most Read