China surges ahead in number of web users
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

China's online population is the fastest-growing in the world, swelling to 253 million in the last year, an official report shows
Although use of the internet is tightly controlled by the government, the country has the most web surfers in the world, beating the US into second place, with 223.1m.

News events such as natural disasters and the Beijing Olympics helped to boost the number of Chinese users by 56 per cent in the year to the end of June.

A report by the government-linked China Internet Network Information Centre said online music, news and instant messaging were the most popular applications.

Readers of online news reached 206 million in the first half of this year, compared with 155 million in the second half of 2007, said the half-yearly report.

"A series of significant news incidents that took place (meant) more 'netizens' looked for related information on the Internet," it said.

Natural disasters such as snow storms during the Lunar New Year holiday and the earthquake that hit Sichuan province in May were huge news events online, along with the Olympics that start on August 8.

People younger than 30 accounted for 69 per cent of total internet users, the report found, and 29 per cent of users accessed the web with mobile phones, reflecting the rapid growth of mobile phone subscribers to 601 million at the end of June.

But with just 19 per cent of the 1.3 billion population accessing the internet, China is still lagging behind the global average of 21 per cent.

While the fast-growing online population has made the internet a new forum for Chinese to express opinions in a manner rarely seen on the strictly government-controlled traditional media, the communist government does attempt to keep tight controls on how it is used.

President Hu Jintao called last year for efforts to "purify" the internet, and in March the authorities introduced a licensing system in the online video service sector in the latest example of tightened government control.----The Telegraph

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