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The BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing
"E-mail remains a major attraction in a country where communications, until recently, remain problematic"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 11:43 GMT
Online boom for China

man online Surfers spend an average of 17 hours online each week

China's internet population has increased by more than four times in the space of a year.

The total number of users reached 8.9 million last December, up from 2.1 million in December 1998, according to a report by the government-run China Internet Network Information Centre.

And 20 million Chinese are expected to be online by the end of the year - a boom expected to be fuelled with the introduction of mobile phones and other low-cost methods of connecting to the internet.

China online
Users double every six months
Mostly men aged 18-30
E-mail and news sites top hits
35m e-mail addresses
1,500 websites in Oct 97; 15,000 Dec 99
Correspondents said the Chinese were proving to be dedicated cybersurfers, spending an average of 17 hours a week online - with e-mail proving to be the most popular choice.

The report, based on some 300,000 responses, found that the majority of people going online were single men with tertiary qualifications. But women were fast catching up, accounting for 21% of users, compared with 15% last June.

Beijing residents accounted for more than 20% of users - earlier surveys showed just 14% of mainland Chinese knew what the internet was.

To help lure non-English speaking citizens online, the centre was trying out a system that allowed users to type in Chinese characters rather than English web addresses.

Access blocked

The government, however, is expected to monitor web content for politically sensitive information, and indicated that it would screen web content providers.

Beijing has previously blocked access to foreign sites, including BBC Online.

wearable PC New technology will lure more people online
The explosion in China's internet usage is expected to fuel investor frenzy over one of the world's biggest markets.

Overseas Internet companies - including Yahoo! and Microsoft - have for years eyed the Chinese market, which could open up to foreign investment this year for the first time with China's anticipated entry into the World Trade Organisation.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has said advances in technology would open up China to global influences, whether Beijing liked it or not.

The internet was helping US efforts to open up the rigid Chinese communist system, she said.

"There is no question that with the spread of internet and globalisation, the spread of information, there is no way to keep that out of China if China is going to compete economically."

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See also:
16 Sep 99 |  The Economy
China bans Internet investment
24 Oct 99 |  Business
China warns foreign web entrepreneurs
12 Feb 99 |  Asia-Pacific
China plays Net nanny
13 Oct 98 |  Asia-Pacific
China 'blocks' BBC Website

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