In China, the Internet has become an indispensable part of Chinese people’s life. By the end of 2001, the number of Internet users has reached 33.7 million, increasing by 49.8 percent over the previous year. Chinese computer groups, with Legend and Founder as the representatives, besides occupying leading positions in the domestic market, have entered the world market with their products. To date, information industry has become the first pillar of China’s industry. Statistics show that the output value, sales volume and profit of the electronic and telecommunications equipment industries have all surpassed those of the traditional industries, making the greatest contribution to the growth of the national economy.
Posts and telecommunications are an important component of the information industry. After decades of construction and development, a national postal network has taken shape, with Beijing and other major cities as the centers, linking all cities and rural areas in China. By the end of 2000, China had more than 171,000 post offices, including more than 20,000 with comprehensive functions, which made up over 28 percent of the nation’s total.
As for the construction of the telecommunications network, a basic transmission network featuring a large capacity and a high speed is now in place. It covers the whole country, with optical cables as the mainstay, and satellite and digital microwave systems as the supplement. In 1998, China completed its “eight from east to west and eight from north to south” lattice-type optical cable network, linking all the provincial capital cities and over 90 percent of counties and cities. Except for Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, each provincial or autonomous regional capital is connected by at least two optical cables. At the end of 2000, the nation’s optical cables extended 1.2 million km. In the coastal and economically advanced hinterland areas, optical cable has reached townships, towns, urban residential quarters and multi-storeyed buildings, thus becoming the main technological means for transmitting information. Meanwhile, all the provinces have set up satellite communication earth stations, with more than 20,000 satellite circuits, and digital microwave routes stretching more than 60,000 km. Meanwhile, China has participated in the construction of a number of international land and sea-bed optical cables, such as the China-Japan, China-ROK and Asia-Europe sea cables, and Asia-Europe and China-Russia land optical cables. China initiated the construction of the 27,000-km Asia-Europe Land Optical Cable, which starts from Shanghai in the east and reaches Frankfurt in Germany in the west, passing through 20 countries. It is the longest land optical cable system in the world today.
At the end of 2001, the local telephone exchange capacity reached 218 million switches, ranking second in the world. All the cities above the county level had program-controlled telephone switchboards, and program-controlled telephones made up 99.8 percent of the telephones. There were 2.202 million circuits for long-distance business, with all the circuits automated.
In 1987, China started the mobile telecommunication business, which has developed rapidly since the beginning of the 1990s, with an average annual growth rate of more than 100 percent. At present, the mobile phone network covers all the large and medium-sized cities, and more than 2,000 small cities and county towns. China has established automatic roaming with 60 companies in 38 countries and regions.
Growth of Postal Service (unit: 100 million yuan) (according to the fixed price of 1990)
In 1992, China started the large-scale construction of the public data telecommunications network, which has now taken initial shape, with group exchange data network, digital data network, computer Internet, multi-media telecommunications network and frame relay network as the mainstay, covering over 90 percent of counties and cities in China. The telecommunication ability reaches 610,000 ports, making it one of the largest public data telecommunications networks in the world. China has also put great efforts into the international telecommunications business, which has basically met the needs of the opening-up.
During the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005), the public telephone network will be more than doubled in scale and have a total of 200 to 300 million users, and will offer ordinary services as well as Internet on-line services to rural, border and remote areas, the latter being the major sector of growth. Mobile communications will continue to grow at a high speed, and the number of users will reach 200 to 300 million. The Internet and relevant services will develop rapidly too, and the number of users will rise to more than 200 million. A new broadband high-speed public information network on the basis of IP technology will develop at a high speed. E-commerce, distance education and various other network-based forms of digital economy and social activities will be promoted. Radio and TV networks will continue to develop at a high speed, the number of radio and TV users scheduled to exceed 200 million by 2005, when almost all villages in China will then have access to radio and TV programs.