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China plans to launch its own online encyclopaedia next year rivalling Wikipedia and Britain’s Encyclopaedia Britannica. The main objective of this project is to guide public thought. China fears that its citizens who use Wikipedia are being corrupted by foreign influences. The project will be executed under the guidance of the state-owned China Publishing Group. The project would be developed in such a way that it serves as a symbol of China’s cultural and technological development and promotes its soft power and international influence.
Unlike the Chinese version of Wikipedia, Baidu Baike which are written by volunteers, the new project will rope in the professionals for content creation. For the compilation of the project, nearly 20,000 scholars and academics have been tasked to create more than 300,000 entries before its 2018 launch. The new project will be based on a previously printed version published in 1993. The second edition was released in 2009. The new project will be released online before publishing the printed version.
China has an estimated 700 million internet users. According to a study conducted in 2015 by the US think tank Freedom House, China had the most restrictive online use policies among 65 nations it studied. It ranks below Iran and Syria. China uses a various forms of web censorship called as “The Great Firewall” to protect its national security. Chinese residents cannot even use Facebook and Twitter. In addition to the above restrictions, with effect from June 1, Chinese Internet users will be required to provide their original names when accessing online news sources.