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Chinese Internet Population on Brink of Surpassing U.S.

Date: 1/22/2008 2:03:55 PM

The Chinese government announced late last week that the country’s internet population had soared to 210million people, putting it just 5million internet users behind the United States.

The statecontrolled China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reported growth of 53% from 137 million internet users at this time last year, a growth rate which virtually guarantees that China will have the world’s largest internet population within the next few months.

Internet penetration in China, however, remains at just 16%, similar to that of the United States in the mid1990s. American internet penetration has since risen to 75% of adults, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. This figure is even higher when teens are included in the total. (China’s stats include all users aged 6 and up.)

“We’re two countries at very different points along the adoption curve,” commented Pew associate director, John Horrigan. “China is approximately 15 years behind.”

Another key factor which differentiates the U.S. and Chinese internet populations is the use of cybercafes, which are very popular in China among users who can’t afford computers at home. About onethird of Chinese users primarily access the internet on public computers, versus just 7% in the United States.

Also worth mentioning is the notorious presence of censorship in China, which prevents internet users in the country from accessing many of the websites that are taken for granted by users in North America and Europe. Most online video sites, as well as politically charged content that may be critical of communist or authoritarian governments, are difficult or impossible to access for the average Chinese internet user.

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