The China Internet Network Information Center, a semiofficial think tank, said the number of Chinese Internet users at the end of June was 87 million, up 9.4% from the end of last year, and 28% more than in June 2003. Both of those percentage increases are the smallest since collection of statistics on Chinese Internet use began in late 1997.
As of the end of June, just 6.6% of Chinese regularly access the Internet, compared with more than 70% of Americans. In the year ended in June 2003, Internet use grew 48%, while in the year ended in June 2002 it expanded 72%. China, home to 20% of the world’s population, accounts for 12% of Internet users world-wide.
While the majority of Chinese Internet users — some 51 million — still use dial-up connections, broadband connectivity has skyrocketed, the study found. The number of broadband users at the end of June grew 79% from the start of this year to 31 million and rose more than threefold from June 2003.
Industry executives attribute the overall slowdown to the Chinese government’s tighter management of publicly accessible computers and to the growing prevalence of mobile phones doubling as data and message devices.
With more than 300 million cellphone users in China, the use of short messaging service, or SMS, “has emerged as the affordable and democratic way to reach someone in real time,” says Hu Wei, Internet analyst for BDA China. With nearly one billion text messages getting sent each day, more and more Chinese are turning to their cellphones not just to chat with friends, but to receive updates and other content they might otherwise seek online.
In comparison, India has about 20 million Internet users and 35 million cellphone users.