July 15, 2010

China Internet Population Now At 420 Million

According to official figures released Thursday, China's Internet population has grown to 420 million.

The figure marks an increase of 36 million since the number of users was last tested in 2009.

The latest numbers were released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a government-linked industry body, and reflect data gathered through the end of June.

The report said that among the factors helping to drive the latest increase was a 31 percent jump in the number of Chinese who shop online, which grew to 142 million.

The number of people who are accessing the Internet through mobile phones jumped to 277 million, up from the center's earlier estimate of 233 million.

China's booming online population has turned the Internet into a forum for citizens to express their opinions in a way rarely seen in a country where the traditional media is under strict control by the government.

The growing strength of the web population in the country has prompted concern in Beijing about the Internet's potential tool for generating social unrest, and authorities have stepped up surveillance in recent years.

The government blocks web content that it sees as politically sensitive in a vast system known as the "Great Firewall of China."