BEIJING – China is all set to launch an online version of its national encyclopaedia next year, to compete with rival Wikipedia.

More than 20,000 people had been hired to work on the project, which will feature 300,000 entries at about 1,000 words each, the BBC reported on Tuesday quoting Chinese officials.

Unlike Wikipedia, it will be created by selected scholars from state-run universities rather than being openly editable by volunteers.

This initiative will take the state into direct competition with local companies that have launched their own online encyclopaedias – such as Baidu and Qihu 360, as well as the largest platform, Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is available in China, but some of its content it blocked.

The Encyclopaedia of China was first published in 1993, in paper form, with the support of scholars, and released a second edition in 2012.

The Encyclopaedia of China “is not a book, but a Great Wall of culture”, Yang Muzhi, the editor-in-chief of the project, who chairs the Book and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, said in an update earlier in April.

Yang – who has listed Wikipedia as a competitor – also said China was facing international pressure to produce its own platform to guide “the public and society”.

In an article for a mainland newspaper last year, Mr Yang said Wikipedia’s appeal in China was “bewitching”. But he added: “We have the biggest, most high-quality author team in the world.

“Our goal is not to catch up, but overtake.”

Last week, Turkish authorities blocked access to Wikipedia within the country without giving a reason.

In 2014, Russia also announced plans for an alternative version of Wikipedia, with the stated aim of providing better information about the country than was available on the platform.