China was tipped to be the top country in terms of number of Internet users
China, already the world leader in cellphone use, has surpassed the USA as the No. 1 nation in Internet users.
The number of Chinese on the Internet hit more than 220 million as of February, according to estimates from official Chinese statistics by the Beijing-based research group BDA China. The government is likely to confirm the leap at its half-yearly report in July.
The longtime Internet leader, the USA, which founded and developed the network of computers, had 216 million users at the end of 2007, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.
The percentage of American users — 71% — still exceeds China’s 17%. China has 1.3 billion people, compared with nearly 304 million in the USA.
China, however, has a higher growth rate, says BDA’s chairman, Duncan Clark. By the end of March, for example, Chinese users climbed to 233 million.
At the end of 2007, China’s Internet users reached 210 million, a jump of 53% from the previous year, says Zhang Shanshan, media director for the China Internet Network Information Center, which gathers statistics for the Ministry of Information Industry.
Clark says the rapid growth is powered in part by China’s economic boom. While the government “continues to filter the Net and encourage self-censorship, it also has a mandate to promote cheaper technology and the knowledge economy.”
And there is strong government backing for companies such as China Netcom, which offers broadband service at $10 a month, Clark says.
At the company’s Xibahe branch in north Beijing, dozens of people recently lined up to buy broadband service.
Sun Xin, 19, a student, was helping his parents sign up for DSL.
“My friends all agree — no Internet, no life,” Sun says. “We use it every day for MSN, and I love playing games like World of Warcraft.” The game is so popular that players can pay companies in China to play in their place so they can continue gaining points.