China’s online population has leapt to 338 million Internet users, more webizens than the entire 307 million population of the U.S., according to new research by the government-sanctioned China Internet Network Information Center.
That represents a 13.4% year-on-year rise, with much of the increase coming via mobile technology.
Penetration remains low. Only 25% of the population have Internet access compared to around 70% in the U.S., which shows the Chinese market is still ripe for growth.
The strong rise in the number of webizens was driven by the robust economy and the expansion of Internet access around the country.
Internet use on mobile phones has increased 32% since the beginning of the year to reach 155 million, with rural dwellers driving this increase, according to the report.
People in rural areas are usually last to get high-speed Internet access via fixed lines because it is expensive to install the lines and broadband exchanges.
However, mobile phone masts can cover a huge geographic area comparatively cheaply, and although connection speed is low, it can be applied almost immediately. For this reason, China is focusing on 3G technology, which allows speedy surfing via mobile phones.
Rural Internet users reached 95.65 million in the period, accounting for nearly 30% of China’s online population, according to the report.
Liu Bing, author of the report, said government efforts to provide subsidies to rural PC buyers and increase investment in basic rural infrastructure encouraged more consumers from remote areas to go online.