China’s Internet population nears 700 million users

AFP, BEIJING

Sat, Jan 23, 2016 - Page 14

China’s Internet users — already by far the world’s most numerous — rose to nearly 700 million last year, authorities said yesterday, more than twice the population of the US.

Beijing imposes strict controls on online content, while e-commerce is a vital part of its efforts to transform the economy into one driven more by consumer demand.

The Asian giant’s Internet population — defined as those who have gone online at least once in the past six months — stood at 688 million at the end of last year, up 39.5 million year-on-year, according to the government’s China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

The figure accounts for more than half the people in the world’s most populous country.

More than 90 percent had gone online through their mobile phones, the CNNIC reported, while two-thirds had used desktop computers and nearly 40 percent laptops.

Several Chinese tech firms, led by Jack Ma’s (馬雲) Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴), have become multi-billion dollar giants in recent years as the country’s online population has boomed.

At the same time Beijing blocks Web sites it deems politically sensitive in a system dubbed the “Great Firewall of China,” and social media companies censor user-generated content.