China’s Internet Users

According to some estimation, China has about 150 – 200 million Internet users, contradicting with the official number of 111 millions. That means China’s Internet users may have very well surpassed the United States (154 million). While this may be a shocking news to some people, it’s not shocking to me. Overtime, I have heard from many of my friends that official data is under-estimated and actual numbers are much higher.

However, what’s real shocking is the amount of time Chinese spent online. Chinese Internet users spend on average15.9 hours per week, while Yahoo!, with the largest user community in this country, can only get its users stick around less than one hour per week. That’s 1.765 billion hours per week online in China, compared with 129 million hours per week online in the U.S.

So, what are Chinese doing by spending so much time online? Apparently, people log onto the Internet surfing the news, chatting with friends and families, etc. Although there is certain degree of censorship, the Internet is still a place where the media is relatively free. According to the CNNIC, 67.9% of online use in China is spent devouring news. By contrast, only 3% of Yahoo!’s U.S. traffic clicks over to news.

Another important fact is that there are 400 million cell phone users in China, and 80% of them have the mobile phones with the capacity connecting to the Internet. With the roll-out of 3G, there will be more mobile Internet access. I would expect China will lead the innovations in mobile search, which includes search for news, local business listings, entertainment, shopping, etc.

Update: eMarketer has more detailed analysis about China’s Internet users with comparison of the data from several sources. However, I do believe the under-estimation of China’s Internet users.

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11 thoughts on “China’s Internet Users

  1. Helen, I’m sure you are correct in the number of Chinese Internet users. I think the Yahoo data is slightly low for the U.S., just judging on how many hours PEOPLE I KNOW spend on the Internet….(from 1 hour to 30 hours…)

    Fascinating study, fascinating data. Please continue to keep us informed. Thank you.

  2. Kathryn,

    The Yahoo data is quoted from a Forbes article (linked). Yes, the number does sound a little too low to me. I was surprised. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thaqnk you Helen for sharing your views on china’s internet users. I hope you continue sharing, as this is one way we build our smal bridges to understanding one anothers cultural differences.

  4. Isn’t this Amazing. It was just eighteen years ago when Ifirst heard of the Internet. Around that time I was talking to a surgeon in Woodstock and he told me it was possible to get on his computer and search medical reference books at the Mao clinic. I thought that was so fabulous.
    I still resist the Blackberries and cell phones. I have a celll phone, but only three people have the number. I keep it with me in case I have an accident on the road, or if my husband needs me in a hurry. Otherwise, I feel my time away from the computer should be quiet time to let my brain unscramble.
    Imagine what will happen when the Chinese discover Gather?

  5. I wonder how much effect the censorship has. I expect if if access was often banned or discouraged in the west there would be much more interest also. Folks just love revolt they can get away with. 🙂 Also the fact that it is RELATIVELY less censored than other media has to appeal. How much of this would have to do with the lack of alternatives? And viewed as a percentage of the population it is approximatel one tenth the rate of penetration as in the US (which would mean that it is even less when compared to many other parts of the world) Do you agree that many times the ‘head count’ type of statistics for China are so huge that they tend to skew perceptions of actual pervasiveness and business profitablility? Looked at from the other side your numbers would indicate that 2.8 billion Chinese never see the internet while only .15 billion Americans are uninfluenced by it. Or 50% of Americans use the internet while less than 7% of China’s citizens do. So a randomly selected American is almost 20 times as likely to be influenced by the internet than is a random;y selected citizen of China.

  6. Dan,

    I would think the lack of althernatives and controlled media are the factors that Chinese stay much longer time online surfing news. There are also many people playing games online.

  7. Helen, Thanks for writing this article…extremely interesting. I was a bit surprise by some of the numbers…yet, with Dan’s comments the numbers make sense. Thanks for sharing this info within “our gather.” Best, Maureen

  8. this is astonishing and interesting news, but who could not expect it considering the plight of China for so long and their hunger for truth.

  9. Thanks for another good article about China, Helen. I think you are helping to dispel many myths about the Chinese people and modern culture. I am very interested in the current politics and economics of China (see my article about Hu Jintao’s upcoming visit to Washington, D.C.).

    However, I have recently read three books about 19th century China and it seems like many Americans still think of China in “the old way”. So, thanks again for your articles!