This article NO NYT, is IHT. article of NYT published
2006/12/1, roc <sdnyroc(a)gmail.com>om>:
FYI. An article by NYT senior writer Mr. Howard
French on the
difference between Chinese and English Wikipedias was published on the
International Herald Tribune yesterday at
. Many Chinese
Wikipedians were extremely disappointed by the profound bias, shallow
research, and jammed untrue descriptions. You can read the forwarded
message from Lawrence Lo (Lorenzarius), and a blog entry from Joseph
Wang (Roadrunner) at http://twofish.wordpress.com/
. There were also
private communications from other Chinese Wikipedians on their similar
The take-home messages are:
1) Chinese Wikipedia has and conforms to a high standard of NPOV, and
Chinese Wikipedians take this policy seriously.
2) There is no such thing called "self-censorship" at Chinese
Wikipedia; indeed any intention for such practice at Chinese Wikipedia
will be denounced by most Chinese Wikipedians.
3) Chinese Wikipedia is written by people from various places of the
world, including Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Asia, America,
Europe, etc. Indeed, editors from Mainland China are disproportionally
scarce because of the current block obviously imposed by the PRC
government (though it never admitted that).
I am not going to list all the false/misleading statements in the
report, as it is super easy to identify chunks of them by any one who
is able to read the following Wikipedia articles in both English and
Chinese. There Wikipedia articles were used as examples in the report.
If you like, check both the current and past versions when the report
By the way, the part of Taiwan's history cited in this IHT report from
English Wikipedia and deemed correct was actually wrong. Luckily, that
part in the actual English Wikipedia article has been corrected in
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lawrence Lo <lorenzarius(a)gmail.com>
Date: 2006/11/29 上午 11:21
Subject: Re: [Wikizh-l] Chinese-language Wikipedia presents different
view of history
To: Andrew Lih <andrew.lih(a)gmail.com>
I call this report biased BS. A wiki as we all know is continuously
evolving, singling one edition of one article does not prove anything.
For instance the last sentences in the opening paragraph of the
of the article in question now reads:
He [Mao] was also the initiator of a series of political movements
such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, resulting
in the abnormal deaths of many Mainland people and great destructions
to many Chinese cultural and historical monuments. He had a great
influence on the 20th century's China and the world.
And obviously omission does not equal self-censorship. Self-censorship
is when a person knows something but intentionally avoids to mention
it. But IMO the more realistic situation with most Mainland
contributors is that they don't know that "something" to begin with.
When a man is taught since birth that "A is right", how can you
criticize him for not knowing that somebody in the other part of the
world thinks that "B is right"? In fact, the Chinese Wikipedia is a
great place for people from different parts of the Chinese-speaking
world to get to know things that we didn't know, to understands things
from the other perspectives.
On 11/29/06, Andrew Lih <andrew.lih(a)gmail.com> wrote:
FYI, some of our own famous ZH Wikipedians
Chinese-language Wikipedia presents different view of history
By Howard W. French
The New York Times
Just who was Mao Zedong?
According to the English-language version of Wikipedia, the popular
online encyclopedia, he was a victorious military and political leader
who founded China's modern Communist state. He was also a man many saw
as "a mass murderer, holding his leadership accountable for the deaths
of tens of millions of innocent Chinese."
Switch to Wikipedia in Chinese, and one discovers a very different
man. There, Mao Zedong's reputation is unsullied by any mention of a
death toll in the great purges of the 1950s and 1960s, or for what
many historians call the greatest famine in human history.
In recent weeks, the Chinese government has demonstrated its hostility
toward the emergence of a credible source of reference material that
escapes its control by frequently blocking access to Wikipedia, whose
Chinese version, though still far smaller than its English-language
counterpart, is growing by leaps and bounds.
But on sensitive questions of China's modern history or on hot-button
issues, the Chinese version diverges so dramatically from its English
counterpart that it sometimes reads as if it were approved by the
This gulf in information and perspective comes across powerfully in
the entry on Mao, which is consistently one of the most frequently
searched and edited topics in the Chinese version, and in the entry on
historical watersheds, like the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Great
Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
Chinese Wikipedia users and critics say that the differences highlight
the resilience here of a system of information control whose reach
goes well beyond simple censorship.
In each of its language versions, Wikipedia is collaboratively written
and edited by online enthusiasts, and contributors to the
Chinese-language site explain the differences in content by citing the
powerful influence of Chinese education, which often provides a neatly
sanitized national perspective on sensitive aspects of the country's
This parochialism is reinforced by the blocking of foreign Web sites,
and by the conformism of the carefully censored mass media.
Alternative viewpoints are sometimes available, but usually only to a
restricted circle of people who have the means and determination to
seek them out.
For some, the Chinese version of Wikipedia was intended as just such a
resource, but its tame approach to sensitive topics has sparked a
fierce debate in the world of online mavens over its objectivity and
In a recent discussion on the encyclopedia's Web site about the Mao
legacy, a user with the online name Manchurian Tiger wrote, "If anyone
can prove that Mao's political movements didn't kill so many people,
I'm willing to delete the wording that 'millions of people were
killed.'" Rather than contribute to encyclopedias, those who wish to
pay tribute to Mao, he added, should "go to his mausoleum."
Another user replied angrily: "If you want to release your emotions,
use a bulletin board. Wikipedia is not your toilet." In the end, the
entry on Mao included no death toll from either famine or political
Indeed, in its present form, the Chinese Wikipedia introduction to Mao
Zedong could hardly be more anodyne: "One of the main founders and
leaders of the Communist Party of China, the People's Liberation Army
and the People's Republic of China," it reads. "He introduced a series
of political movements such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural
Revolution. He had a great influence over 20th-century China and the
On the evidence of entries like this, for the moment, the fight over
editorial direction of Wikipedia in Chinese is being won by
enthusiasts who practice self-censorship.
"Most of the people who contribute to Wikipedia rarely touch upon
political topics," said Yuan Mingli, a frequent contributor from
Shanghai. "They prefer to write about things like technology. There
are other things in life."
Others denounce compromises on content as a deviation from the
original mission of Wikipedia, which they say is to spread reliable
information and to seek truth. In any case, they add, self- censorship
has already proved naïve because the government still frequently
blocks access for most Chinese Internet users.
"There is a lot of confusion about whether they should obey the
neutral point of view or offer some compromises to the government,"
said Isaac Mao, a well-known Chinese blogger and user of the
encyclopedia. "To the local Wikipedians, the first objective is to
make it well-known among Chinese, to get people to understand the
principles of Wikipedia step by step, and not to get the thing blocked
by the government. The government doesn't buy into their attitude."
After Mao Zedong, few questions are treated as more sacrosanct in
China than the status of Taiwan, which every pupil is taught is
irrevocably part of China. To publicly suggest that Taiwanese have any
historical basis for asserting their independence from China would be
a career-ending offense for anyone in academia or in the media.
The English-language version of the encyclopedia speaks of a Japanese
shipwreck off Taiwan in 1871, in which 54 crew members were beheaded
by Taiwanese aborigines. Japan demanded compensation from China, only
to be told that Taiwan was not within China's jurisdiction. The
Chinese-language entry on Taiwan, meanwhile, is silent on the
Similarly, the English-language Wikipedia mentions the settlement of
Taiwan by aborigines who are genetically related to Malaysians, about
4,000 years ago. It also places the first meaningful settlement of the
island by Chinese in the 16th century.
The Chinese version of Wikipedia, though, merely speaks of cultural
affinities with Malaysians and speculates about the possible
exploration of the island by Chinese as far back as the third century.
A parallel, and purely homegrown, effort at creating an online
encyclopedia in China, Baidu Baike, skirts controversies like these
altogether. Baidu Baike, which is owned by the biggest Internet search
engine company in China, asserts that Taiwan's original inhabitants
"came from mainland China directly or indirectly," and not from
Similarly, a user who searches for the Tiananmen Square massacre will
find no entry.
As online reference sites grow in popularity here, Baidu Baike
benefits from government efforts to block Wikipedia, just as the same
company's search engine once benefited from similar blockage of
Baidu Baike, much of whose content appears to be copied directly from
Wikipedia, would not release detailed user statistics, saying only
that it has "several million" users each day. A spokeswoman for the
company, Zhang Yan, said it is guided by the editorial policy of not
"judging the existing national system with malice."
Asked to explain what this meant, Zhang said, "Anyone who is Chinese knows."
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