Christian Living

chinaconnection 01/18/08

210 Million Internet Users And Counting . . .

With the total number of Internet users in China up a whopping 53% from last year, it's only months away from dismantling the U.S. as the country with the greatest number of users worldwide.

Every time the CNNIC, China Internet Network Information Center, releases its semi-annual survey, it's met with a sense of wonder from the international community, and it's probably just a matter of time before the number of China's Internet users mirrors that of its 600 million cell phone users as of this past June.  Of course, it's probable that in the next few years nearly all cell phone users will be using their phones to go online.   

But we don't just have to the basic technological growth that we can take from these survey results.  Simply understanding China's Internet provides valuable insight into China as a whole.

Nowhere is the tension between government regulation and personal freedom more pronounced than in the online communities.  On the one hand, you have one of the most robust blogging communities in the world, with over 47 million bloggers writing about everything from their personal activities to social issues.  On the other hand, you have the government monitors, complete with cartoon cops Jing Jing and Cha Cha always looking over your shoulder. 

Several bloggers and citizen journalists have been detained for content they've posted online, but that hasn't stopped the general public from staing their opinions and taking advantage of the communication they have through the Internet.

Even though 210 million seems to be a huge number, in a country of 1.3 billion, it's still a small percentage overall.  Granted, the number of users online varies dramatically depending on location. 

In rural areas, it's rare to find an Internet cafe, whereas in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, a sizeable percentage of the population goes online.  Furthermore, although Internet use is very popular among younger Chinese, there's still a slight generational gap, though that's rapidly shrinking.  

Wang Enhai, Director of Information Service Department at CNNIC, says that he anticipates that these gaps should continue to close, and the Internet can soon be an instrumental tool to improve the conditions of citizens nationwide.  He says that in the future "people will be able to log on any time anywhere."

While China's Internet usage continues to spread, as it economy continues to grow, there may be more growing pains ahead for China.  For example, an estimated 17% of Chinese teenagers are addicted to Internet gaming,  and certain Internet addiction treatment centers have popped up nationwide. 

Despite the bumps and growing pains, the Internet has already had an undenaible impact on Chinese society.  To date, much of the infrastructure has been catalyzed by developments overseas, and aided by U.S. corporations. 

As the Internet continues to evolve within China, however, and its users far surpass those in the U.S., it might only be a matter time before China is at the forefront of global Internet technology.

Give Now