China had 79.5 million Web surfers at the end of 2003, a report by the China
Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) out of Beijing stated Thursday.
The number catapults the country ahead of fellow Asia-Pacific region country
Japan, which has 56 million Internet users but below first-ranked U.S.,
which has 165.75 million Internet users, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) World Factbook.
According to the bi-annual Statistical Survey Report, China added 20.4
million new users this year, a 34.5 percent increase over last year. It’s
an amazing six-month leap; its previous report, the 12th Statistical Survey
Report, showed 68 million Internet users. Officials determine an Internet
user as someone who accesses the Internet one hour or more a week.
“China’s Internet market has great potential,” a statement read. “It has
already become the country’s fastest-growing, most influential sector.”
While 79.5 million would be a significant number in most countries, it’s a mere six
percent of China’s total population of 1.28 billion. In the U.S., Web
surfers make up 57 percent of the total population of 290.34 million.
China has only three Internet service providers (ISPs) — ChinaLink
Networks, Netaway and VPM Internet Services, Inc. — and the majority of
Internet use comes from dial up connections to the home, about 45 percent.
Internet cafe’s scattered throughout the country also make up a large part
of China’s Internet use, nearly 25 percent of the country’s Internet access
comes from leased lines, while about 10 percent of users have a broadband
connection, according to the report.
Figures out of the CNNIC have been contested in the past, however. In 2000,
surveys seemed to
indicate Internet growth was not as high as the organization was
CNNIC is hardly neutral; it is the communist country’s Internet registry for
.cn country-code top-level domains (ccTLD) and its Web site states it
“takes its orders from the Ministry of Information Industry.”
However, China is prominently ranked in most surveys coming out of the
International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an international body that
works to resolve differences between Internet standards bodies, private
enterprise and governments.
Hong Kong and Taiwan are ranked seventh and ninth, respectively in the ITU’s
2002 digital access index (DAI) report, an index that determines the
availability of Internet access, quality and infrastructure for a country’s
population. Both Hong Kong and Taiwan beat out Internet heavyweights U.S.,
the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
The ITU report also noted half of China’s Internet users are university