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Wikimedia in China

Languages of China and their Wikipedias

Wiki code Language Primary Country Number of speakers(Millions) potential readers (Millions) Number of articles (8-09) # of articles >1500 bytes (8-09) Article, 1 year growth rate (5/08-5/09) # of 5+ editors (5-09) 5+ editors, 1 year growth rate (5/08-5/09) 5+ editors, 2 year growth rate (5/07-5/09) Article to editor ratio
zh Chinese China 1,213 266.86 255,714 43,471 39% 1,947 14% 29% 131
hak Chinese, Hakka China 30 6.60 665 13 192% 21 110% 950% 32
cdo Chinese, Min Dong China 9 2.00 221 60 32% 10 43% (N/A) 22
zh-min-nan Chinese, Min Nan China 47 10.41 5,925 356 71% 23 -4% 44% 258
zh-yue Chinese, Yue China 56 12.21 11,397 912 43% 44 22% 38% 259
za Zhuang [zha] China 15 3.28 152 3 312% 8 300% (N/A) 19
ug Uyghur [uig] China 9 1.94 2,206 176 1,016% 20 300% 400% 110

Languages of China

  • In China, many people speak different dialects of Chinese at home. However, Traditionally, these dialects have had no written form. the various dialects of Chinese have historically been represented by a unified writing system that corresponds most closely to Mandarin
  • Mandarin is the dominant language for all media in China
  • There are other minority languages spoken in China that are not considered dialects of Chinese. These include Zhuang, and Uyghur. These languages have a separate standard written form but are spoken by a small percentage of the population, many of whom speak Mandarin as a second language.
Growth of Mandarin Chinese Wikipedia

Languages of China and education

  • Mandarin is the main medium of instruction at the elementary, secondary and university level.
  • In some areas minority languages are also taught in schools.

Internet penetration in China


  • "Don't assume China mimics US-style social media." This ReadWriteWeb post not only notes that most American social media apps have a Chinese equivalent that is more localized, but that BBSes are still very popular in China.
  • In a talk on the Future of the Web, Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicted that the Internet will be dominated by Chinese language content in five years.
  • "A New Approach to China." Google's announcement on January 12, 2010 of new security breaches in China and the end of Google's China business operations.

Wikipedias of the Languages of China

  • The Chinese Mandarin Wikipedia has shown a strong growth and has developed a significant number of articles when compared to other languages. However, many of these articles are only stubs that have limited content. Only 17% of the articles are greater than 1.5 KB. Additionally, given the large number of potential users, the Chinese Wikipedia has not experienced the type of growth compared with European languages with a similar number of potential users.
  • None of the Chinese dialect Wikipedias or the minority language Wikipedias have shown strong growth.

Barriers to the growth of Chinese language Wikipedias

  • There is steep competition in the Chinese online encyclopedia space from Baidu and Hudong (en). Both of these online encyclopedias have more than a million articles.
  • In mainland China there is a lack of understanding of the value proposition for participating in Wikipedia. This is due in part to the fact that other are Chinese online encyclopedias pay people to write entries.
  • There is concern amongst some mainland Chinese that participating in Wikipedia could involve them unwittingly in political controversy. Because the political climate is constantly shifting, the topics that are permitted for discussion by the censors changes on a regular basis. Websites based in China automatically censor contributions. Therefore, contributors do not have to worry about whether or not they are discussing politically sensitive topics since the website will automatically remove something that is deemed sensitive. Wikipedia does not provide that protection.
  • For much of the past few years, Wikipedia has been blocked in China, and still continues to be intermittently.

Interview comments

  • “China is a huge and nationalistic country (like the U.S.). They like things their way and foreign Internet businesses have largely failed because they aren’t able to go ‘local’ as well as Chinese companies do. We haven’t been able to compete.” -U.S. Internet executive
  • “If our objective is to target [the] mass Internet audience in China, we need to think from our users' point-of-views. From users' perspectives, I think Hudong and Baidu Baike are undoubtedly our competitors. For search results, I selected 10+ keywords with the criteria that all three sites have articles on the keyword, and Googled them. I found for most of the searches, Baidu Baike ranks No. 1 in search results.” -User:Tango, China Task Force member [1]
  • “With the current situation in China, I still think it is difficult. This really is a political system-related problem, a problem that we can’t really solve . . . So my personal view is if we want to invest in middle-size Wikipedias, we should invest in other places.”-Ting Chen, Wikimedia Board of Trustees [2]
  • “These [cyber] attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered - combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web - have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn . . . We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.-Google, Inc [3]

See also


  1. http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Thread:Talk:China_Task_Force/What_makes_Wikimedia_different_from_Hudong_%26_Baidu_Baike
  2. http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Interviews/Ting_Chen
  3. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/new-approach-to-china.html