Internet Usage In China Soars Thanks To Mobile Devices
January 15, 2013

Internet Usage In China Soared In 2012 Thanks To Mobile Devices

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Fight against it as they may, the Chinese government has not able to keep the web out of their people´s hands. Despite tightening control over what is posted online and what is seen, new data from the East shows that the number of those accessing the Internet continues to grow at a substantial rate.

According to the China Internet Network Information Center, the country saw 51 million more surfers added in 2012 over 2011, representing a 10% increase. All told, some 564 million Chinese citizens logged onto the Internet in some capacity in 2012, the majority of whom did so from their mobile devices. To put the number in perspective, 51 million is larger than the entire population of Spain, and these new users represent only people living in an area with access to Internet or mobile networks capable of delivering the Internet.

The big player in this story is mobile Internet, as the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) has said that as many as 75 percent of these new users logged on with their smartphone or tablet. This mass of users alone increased China´s total number of mobile surfers by 18.1% to 420 million. The report also noted that desktop surfing is on the decline, a trend which can be seen in the decreasing popularity of Internet cafes. Overall, desktop surfing fell by nearly 3 percent in 2012, while the percentage of total Internet traffic taking place from a laptop dropped to 45.9%.

This report suggests that the Chinese people are leaving these Internet cafes and taking to the streets, and a number of mobile Internet activities are now on the rise as well. Microblogging, for instance (including Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), saw a dramatic increase in 2012 as over 58.7 million more people used these services compared to 2011, bringing the total number of Chinese microbloggers up to 309 million. The number of Internet shoppers in China has also increased, a move brought about with steady improvements to e-commerce in the country. According to the CNNIC, 242 million people shopped online in 2012.

Returning to Microblogging: It´s this kind of service which has recently sent the Chinese government to crack down even further with their heavy-handed Internet restrictions, known collectively as the “Great Firewall of China.”

While 2012 brought millions more to the Internet, it also saw several government scandals come to light and broadcast over the Internet, specifically via these microblogging services. In one such situation, a city official from Chongqing was videotaped having sex with a “much younger woman.” This videotape was then leaked online, leading to the dismissal of the official. He later claimed he was innocent, saying the video had been “photoshopped” to make it appear as if he were the one having sex with the girl.

Chinese activists have also uncovered and leaked pictures of other politicians with luxury items that their governmental salaries could not afford them. These scandals and more have led the Chinese government to begin working on a new bill which would require all Internet users in China to use their real name when using these web-based services. Though the politicians behind the bill claim they are only doing so to “protect personal information,” it is widely seen as a way to further restrict what Internet users in China can and cannot see.