Chinese internet users surge to 802 million in test of government’s ability to manage world’s biggest online community

August 21, 2018
Industry News
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Iris Deng
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China is home to the world’s biggest online community, with about two in five Chinese still offline

There are now as many internet users in China as there are people in the United States, Indonesia and Brazil combined.

While two in five Chinese are still offline, the country’s internet population has grown big enough to open huge market opportunities for hi-tech companies, and provide the government with better access to keep watch over its citizens, according to an analyst.

China surpassed the 800-million mark for the number of internet users for the first time, further cementing its position as home to the world’s biggest online community, as the country kept up its investment in infrastructure and pushed to lower access fees.

The number of internet users in China rose by 30 million in the first half of this year to 802 million, representing a penetration rate of 57.7 per cent, according to a report by state agency China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) released on Monday. All but 1.7 per cent of the users access the internet through mobile devices, according to the report.

“[Expansion of internet access] is a double-edged sword. It’s good for internet companies, and good for the government if they want to control the population better, but it also means there are more risks,” said Shaun Rein, the managing director at China Market Research Group. “It’s easier for a lot of criminals to push gambling, pornography or drugs because it is such a large internet market.”

As of June this year, seven in 10 Chinese internet users have shopped and paid for purchases online. About 566 million people use mobile payment, an increase of 7.4 per cent compared with six months earlier.
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