China flag
China flag.Reuters

China is planning to launch an online encyclopedia next year to rival Wikipedia as a go-to information source for the Chinese internet users.

The Chinese government fears the citizens are being led astray by foreign influences. Project editor Yang Muzhi's statement published last month on Chinese Academy of Sciences website said China is under pressure to come up with a free online encyclopedia to guide public thought, AFP reported.

Yang, in an article he wrote late last year, had listed Wikipedia and Britain's Encyclopaedia Britannica as potential rivals for China's encyclopedia project. The idea is to exceed these online information portals, he said.

The project editor noted that the prospective design will be made under the guidance of the state-owned China Publishing Group and that it "must have Chinese characteristics".The encyclopedia project would be a "symbol of the country's cultural and technological development.China is also looking to expand its international influence through the project, he added.

Unlike Wikipedia, the new encyclopedia project, which was approved in 2011, will be entirely written and edited by professionals. Wikipedia can be written and edited by laymen.

Wikipedia logo
Wikipedia logoWikimedia

Over 20,000 scholars and academics have been enlisted by China to roll out the project, which aims to have more than 3,00,000 entries, when it launches in 2018, according to AFP.

The new online encyclopedia will be based on a version previously published in book form in 1993. People will be able to access the newest version of the encyclopedia online, before it is published in a bound edition.

China reportedly has more than 700 million internet users. However, according to a 2015 report by a US think tank called Freedom House, out of the 65 countries, China has the most restrictive online use policies. The country even ranked below Iran and Syria.