The number of Internet users in China reached an estimated 172 million by the end of September, or about 13 percent of the total population, according to the Ministry of Information Industry (MII).
The figure, announced by MII Vice Minister Lou Qinjian at the Ninth Hi-tech Fair in Shenzhen on Friday, indicates more than 100 Chinese people are acquiring Internet access every minute.
About 10 million new users gained access to the Internet in the past three months, as the figure stood at 162 million by the end of June.
Lou said the ministry expected the figure to reach 200 million, about 15 percent of the population, by 2010 at an annual growth rate of eight percent, as stated in its fifth five-year plan (2006-2010).
However, the figure would easily top 200 million no later than the end of next year, if the growth rate in the past three months was maintained.
The number of Internet users in rural areas in the first nine months was unavailable, but the number stood at 37.41 million by the end of June, approximately 5.1 percent of the rural population.
(Xinhua News Agency October 13, 2007)