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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
China's web surfers keep growing
Chinese woman in mask, AP
Fear of the Sars virus has prompted people to use the net more
The numbers of Chinese people going online is slowing down.

In 2002 the web using population of China grew by almost 50%, but in the first six months of 2003 the growth rate was only 15%, according to a survey.

However, those that have discovered the net are spending more of their time online.

Now there are more than 68m Chinese people on the net.

Cafe culture

These figures make China the second-largest net-using nation on the planet after the US. In the first six months of 2003, almost nine million Chinese went online for the first time.

Most Chinese net users, 60.1%, are male and single (59.1%) and 84% of them earn less than 2,000 yuan (150) per month.

The China Internet Network Information Center gathered the figures and said that the slowdown in numbers could be due to the imposition of strict regulations on cyber cafes.

Over the past few months the Chinese Government has worked hard to close down illegal cyber cafes following a fire in an net cafe last year that left 25 people dead.

The government has also asked legitimate net cafes ones to step up their monitoring of what people do online.

The majority of net-using Chinese people, 66%, surf the web at home with a minority, 14.4%, going online via cable or DSL lines.

The China Internet Center said the increase in the amount of time people spend online could be due to the Sars virus which may have persuaded people to stay at their computers rather than venture out onto the streets.

The average Chinese net user now spends about 13 hours per week online up from 3.2 hours in the last survey. During this time they receive, on average, 7.2 e-mail messages and send 5.3 out.

Many of those going online are spending cash too. The survey revealed that 40.7% of net users bought something from an online store over the last 12 months, an increase from the 33% in the last survey.

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