China has begun work on an online encyclopedia that will rival Wikipedia in size. Some 20,000 researchers have been employed by the government to write articles across 100 different disciplines.
The project was originally approved back in 2011, but is only now getting off the ground. It’s a massive undertaking that will see 300,000 articles written. Making it larger and more complete than the Encyclopedia Britannica; and equal in size to Chinese-language version Wikipedia.
China is not necessarily starved for online information. Wikipedia is largely accessible in the country, although certain articles – like the Dalai Lama – lead to broken links. Web companies Baidu and Qihu 360 have also published their own online knowledge repositories.
Of course, a government linked encyclopedia will give the Chinese leadership the kind of control that it prefers to have. The country is known to carefully control the flow of information; which could possibly affect the neutrality of the articles. Not to say that Wikipedia is any less biased.
Still, the goal of the Chinese online encyclopedia is not to catch up with Wikipedia. Instead, it aims to surpass the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. A goal that isn’t quite out of reach, considering that one needs to constantly ask for donations and the other is funded by one of the strongest economies in the world.