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Online Population Grows
China's mainland replaced Japan as home to the world's second largest online population by the end of last year, according to a national survey released yesterday.

The mainland's online population, which hit 59.1 million by the end of 2002, up nearly 30 percent from the middle of the year, is larger than Japan's latest figure of 54 million, said the China Internet Network Information Center.

The center predicted the number of net surfers in China would jump 46 percent to 86.3 million this year.

However, China still lags far behind the United States, which is home to 170 million Internet users. And China's online population is only 4.6 percent of its total population.

The center issues a national Internet development survey every January and July. It defines Internet users as those who surf the Web for at least one hour each week.

The center also drew a profile of the typical Chinese Internet user: male, single, younger than 25 and possessing less than a college education. Moreover, his monthly income is less than 2,000 yuan (US$240.96).

China's Internet penetration picked up its pace in early 2002, as government and traditional companies -- not just money-burning dot.coms -- jumped online.

Over the last 18 months, the country's online population has grown by nearly 30 percent every half year.

"Computer network projects within government agencies and companies are driving the Internet user growth," said Lu Guoying, general manager of Beijing-based CCID Consulting's network research department.

"After people get to try the Internet for the first time, they can hardly leave it and quickly become a frequent user," he said, adding that many people who are online at work buy Internet connections for their homes.

Another notable trend in China's Internet progress is that the number of people with broadband connections surged to 6.6 million, compared with 2 million six months ago.

"The split of the former China Telecom was a very crucial corner stone in the broadband business," he said. "After it split, large telecom operators began to promote broadband service actively, while in 2001, too many small companies were jammed in the market."

The big players' activities have restored market confidence and attracted new customers, he noted.

The report also shows that a growing number of people are buying goods online.

More than 33 percent of responders to a CNNIC survey said they have bought something from the Web during the past six months. Among the online buyers, 67.7 percent said they have purchased books and magazines, while 34.9 percent bought audio and video products. Many would like to buy more goods online.

More than 39 percent of those surveyed said there are too few book titles available online, while 27.1 percent said they cannot find enough computers and related products. Surprisingly, 22.3 percent said they want to buy more clothes on the Web.

For the first time, the survey looked at Taiwan and Hong Kong. It said Taiwan now has 8.61 million Internet users, 38.25 percent of its total population, and Hong Kong has 2.37 million, 45 percent of its residents between the age of six and 84.

(eastday.com January 17, 2003)

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China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC)
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