China Internet Population Tops 200 Million

China Internet Population Tops 200 Million

Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service
Fri Jan 18, 2008 9:30 AM ET

The number of Internet users in China soared past 200 million in
2007, a new report from the country’s quasi-government Internet
overseer said Thursday.

China’s Internet population stood at 210 million at the end of last
year, up 53 percent from the same time in 2006 when there were 137
million, the China Internet Network Information Centre said in its
semi-annual report on Internet use here.

That figure puts China just 5 million users away from becoming the
world’s largest wired nation– and with only about 16 percent of the
population online. At its current growth rate, China will become the
world’s top Internet market sometime in the next few months.

The greatest growth came from users under 18 and over 30, CNNIC
said. One of the most surprising statistics from the new report
indicates that about 40 percent of users added over the last year, over
29 million, came from rural areas. Even in the January 2007 report, the
vast majority of Chinese Netizens were based in major urban areas such
as Beijing and Shanghai.

Also surprising among the new results is that China’s most popular
Internet application is online music, used by 86.6 percent of those
surveyed, followed by instant messaging with 81 percent. E-mail placed
only fifth, with 56.5 percent using it.

CNNIC’s survey provides the most reliable information about Internet
use in China, although its methodology is translucent at best. It does
not reveal its sample size, nor does it reveal what consists of an
Internet user except that the person used the Internet at least once in
the month prior to when the survey was taken.

While the new statistics may seem impressive, it highlights how
Internet usage in the country still lags behind mobile phone use, and
how even greater usage could be spurred by more access through wireless
devices. "China’s admittedly impressive user statistics hide an
important fact: only a fraction of those users have regular access to a
PC," said David Wolf, CEO of Wolf Group Asia, a Beijing-based
technology consultancy.

Despite limited PC access for some users, Chinese Internet users
have embraced the Internet as a means of expression. "In addition to an
increase in overall numbers, you also see a rise in the number of
Netizens creating content on BBS and blogs, making Chinese Netizens
some of the most active participants in the Web 2.0 phenomena in the
world," said Sam Flemming, founder and CEO of CIC, an Internet word of
mouth monitoring firm based in Shanghai.

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