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Cyber Chat Topics Cover A to Z

Nearly 70 percent of Chinese netizens, or Internet users, enjoy chatting on the Internet, with leisure-time hobbies ranking as their favorite topic, a recent survey on Chinese cultural websites reveals.

Personal affairs, work and political and academic issues come next, according to the survey of 3,040 netizens conducted by the Organizing Committee of the Internet Civilization Project (OCICP) in 10 big cities across the country, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

China now has 2,536 Chinese-language chat websites and 12,592 online columns for bulletin board system (BBS), discussions, postings and forums, all favorite places for netizens to speak their minds. These online meeting places account for over one-third of China's 52,000 cultural websites.

Online chatting accounts for about one-fourth of netizens' daily communication and online discussion. It has become a regular habit, the survey indicates.

In China, chat rooms were once dominated by youths seeking fun, love or a chance to practice their English.

Nowadays, some learned scholars and high-level government officials are striking up their own, more serious, conversations.

On December 23, 2003, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing participated in a scheduled online chat session that lasted around two hours.

He spoke with netizens about China's foreign policy and Sino-US and Sino-Japanese relations. Netizens also asked Li about his personal life.

Online comments and opinions are now attracting the attention of government officials more than ever before, and the Internet is gradually becoming part of the country's public affairs decision-making process.

In Shenzhen, the local legislature recently issued a circular on http://shenzhen.net.cn asking citizens to contribute suggestions for its legislative work in 2004.

In Beijing, the municipal government has posted a notice on http://beijing.gov.cn soliciting public views on 56 major public projects planned for 2004.

China has 5,292 online game websites. According to the OCICP survey, just under 41 percent of the respondents said they always play online games, 70 percent said China should develop many more online games, and 75 percent said indulging in online games does not adversely affect desire to work.

Besides chatting and playing online games, netizens also like to browse news reports and listen to music on the Internet.

At least 7,000 of China's cultural websites are news sites, 1,000 are devoted to literature and 5,200, focus on tourism.

The number of netizens on the mainland had reached 79.5 million by the end of 2003, up 34.5 percent over the previous year, according to a report issued by the China Internet Network Information Center on its 13th survey of the development of the Internet in China.

The number of computers linked to the Internet had reached 30.9 million by the end of 2003, a 48.3 percent jump from 2002, according to the report.

The center classifies people who use the Internet for more than one hour each week as netizens.

(Xinhua News Agency March 3, 2004)

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