Chinese Wikipedia’s Surge in Growth

Here in the PRC, it has been four days since the block of Chinese Wikipedia (ZH) was fully lifted. All reports indicate it is indeed accessible from everywhere in the country – an improvement on the initial partial lifting of the block on 10/10.

So I wondered – was there any way to check the effects of the block being lifted? A trip to the Wikipedia logs of new user registrations and new articles this morning shows a dramatic story. In short:

Where ZH was previously getting 300-400 new registrants a day, the weekend after unblocking has seen over one thousand new registrants a day. November 12 (interestingly, a Sunday) saw over 1,200 new registrants.

New Users in Chinese Wikipedia

As a result – though ZH is only the 12th largest language Wikipedia, in terms of “new users registered each day” it has suddenly vaulted from the middle of the pack to be the 2nd largest growing Wikipedia by users, now far outpacing the German, French and Spanish Wikipedia juggernauts. (English Wikipedia is in a different universe at number one)New Users for Various Languages

That same Sunday, there were 75% more new articles added to ZH than the previous week (Nov 12 v Nov 5).Rate of New Articles in Chinese Wikipedia

This sharp growth is certainly exciting, but it will truly test this community to absorb this volume of newbies so quickly. Get those neutral point of view and wiki markup tutorials in place.Before the lifting of the block, a quarter of the active contributors were from Hong Kong, another quarter from Taiwan. The rest were a mix from Singapore, Malaysia, US, Canada, PRC and other places. That’s going to shift in a major way, starting this week.

Also, this weekend ZH surpassed 100,000 articles. At this rate of new user signup and article creation, the next 100,000 will come very quickly.

The ZH community has been waiting over a year for this moment, and how prescient it was that just last night Tom Friedman was in Beijing extolling the virtues of Wikipedia at the Bookworm Cafe, saying that the world has been flattened by this new “upload” culture.

Welcome PRC users, to a global online community the likes of which you have never seen before.

41 thoughts on “Chinese Wikipedia’s Surge in Growth

  1. “Tom Friedman was in Beijing extolling the virtues of Wikipedia at the Bookworm Cafe.”

    I think you literally grew two inches when he said that.

  2. No use. Someone still has the time to completely revert articles back to their point of view. My statement that China is a democracy did indeed last a little longer than in the past before someguy by the name of Ran reverted. Frankly, I do not have much time to play this tug of war games with someone that is ignorant about Communism.

    Hopefully, more Chinese users can join me and we can take over wikipedia.

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  4. It would be fascinating to see more evidence online of what people in Mainland China believe to be true about the officially mistold stories in Chinese history.

    Most people I’ve personally known living in Mainland China, if we’ve had this conversation, are of one mind on issues like what happened in Tiananmen Square or what life was like during the Cultural Revolution. Whether through study abroad or reading online, or in some cases because they had a personal experience close to this history, they know the party’s version of events is false.

    For younger adults, some of them old enough now to be professors, they have had to unlearn what they were taught all their lives in Chinese schools. It is usually heartbreaking and difficult to accept that the patriotic versions they had learned were lies. I wonder whether ZH Wikipedia, even if it were perfectly accurate in its accounting of the facts, whether it would be enough to shake the beliefs of common Chinese who don’t yet know their nation and their schools have lied to them. They love their country at least as much as anyone else loves their own. Bearers of facts struggle to overcome beliefs, whatever their veracity.

    I’m not in contact with a representative swath of the people, obviously enough. My experience is anecdotal and biased in favor of academics and business-types in big cities, who have had much more exposure to the rest of the world than an average Chinese citizen. When I say that most of the people I’ve spoken with on the Mainland know better than what they were taught in school, I still don’t know how true that is for most Chinese. I have reason to suspect that the large majority of regular Chinese people do not know the facts of the uglier parts of their own history. (As a qualification of this, I suppose the same is true to a lesser degree in nations with greater freedom of speech, too.)

    I’ve been surprised many times over by Chinese students who are in the U.S. for the first time. At Cornell University over the years, I met dozens of students and scholars from the Mainland who honestly believed the party versions of their history. It was galling to see celebrated scholars insisting that the Cultural Revolution essentially didn’t happen, or that to whatever extent it did, academics et al. deserved to be sent down, etc. I’ve listened to otherwise brilliant grad students maintain that freedoms of speech and protest should and will eventually be banned globally. These ideas are deep-sunken and insidious; multiplied by more than a billion minds, I fear they do legitimately threaten our global intellectual future.

    Now to what extent you support freedom of speech may in itself be a great debate with valid, varied opinions. In Germany, much of what would otherwise be free speech is illegal when it’s Nazi. The same hateful speech in the U.S. would be legal and protected by our Constitution. Are either or both of us “right” considering our different circumstances? Is it possible to forge a global standard for justice with respect to free speech, or do local circumstances warrant variation, and by how much?

    About the facts of history however, there should be no debate. It is not my “opinion” that millions died due to Mao’s policies, which he maintained for his personal benefit even as he was informed of their impact. It isn’t a matter of opinion at all: that’s what happened.

    I suggest therein is the penumbra of justice with respect to free speech. Speech should be as free as it needs to be that common people can know common facts. Let me restate even more briefly: Speech must not be so limited that truth is misplaced.

    Then, apply that standard to China. Because I can tell you that otherwise brilliant grad students from Mainland China honestly believe what is not true about their nation’s history, I would say freedom of speech has been too limited in China, whatever anyone’s opinion about where exactly lines should be drawn.

    That Wikipedia has in place great controls, moderators, and l’esprit of truth and facts prevailing, may not be enough. ZH Wikipedia could be overwhelmed with thousands or even millions of users who know primarily what the party taught them. If it is left open to the people, this global, public record of Chinese knowledge could stand as an historic test of truth and human manipulation. BG

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  8. Wikipedia is the key to most success online, when it comes to collabritive content adding. I have spent many hours writing articles for Jimmy Wales and am very happy with this project. I am based in Seminole FL close to the wikipedia offices in St Petersburg. I love contributing!

    Happy New Year Bloggers!

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