The Chinese government is recruiting up to 20,000 people to aid in the development of a Chinese Wikipedia alternative.
VICE News reports that the aptly named “Chinese Encyclopedia” will launch online in 2018 with the help of thousands of scholars from research institutes and universities who have been employed by the government to contribute articles relating to over 100 topics to the new website. The expected finished product will feature as many as 300,000 article entries.
Yang Muzhi, the editor-in-chief of the project and the chairman of the Book and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, said in an interview, “The Chinese Encyclopaedia is not a book, but a Great Wall of culture.” He added that China was under pressure from the international community to develop an encyclopedia that will “guide and lead the public and society.”
The development of the Chinese Encyclopedia may in part be due to the blocking of Wikipedia by the Chinese government. Chinese tech companies Baidu and Qihoo 360 operate their own alternative online encyclopedias but fail to match the size and content level of Wikipedia. Muzhi did, however, claim that this was not a Wikipedia clone. “We have the biggest, most high-quality author team in the world,” he said. “Our goal is not to catch up, but overtake.”
How much control the Chinese government will have over the content published in the online encyclopedia is unknown.