The world seems full of amazing statistics, but now there is another that just boggles the mind: there are more internet users in China than there are human beings in the United States.
The Chinese government announced in Shanghai that more than 338 million people in China use the internet, a number which has grown by more that 40 million in the first half of 2009 alone. That is significantly larger than the 307 million or so people that call the United States home. The growth in Chinese internet users in the first six months of 2009 is almost twice as many people than live in the state of Texas, and five times more than live in New York City.
That, of course, makes the Chinese internet user total the largest in the world. Most of those users are connected via dial-up, but there are still almost 100 million Chinese broadband users, a number that grew by 10 million over the first six months of 2009. The number of broadband users in China, then, grew more than the population of New York City.
Coverage in rural areas is expected to get even better as the country’s three telecoms operators, China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom invest 280 billion yuan (40 billion dollars) in a national 3G wireless network over the next year, according to China Mobile vice president Lu Xiangdong. Over 95 percent of rural townships already have internet availability, as do over 92 percent of smaller villages, according to an AFP story.
The huge numbers of Chinese on line has caused the government more than a little concern. The Chinese government has always maintained some control over the internet, but they have been increasing the amount of oversight they exercise over the Web life of Chinese citizens. In moves that are strikingly similar to those taken by the Iranian government after their recent post-election riots, the Chinese have blocked access to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as to sites such as Youtube, which could be used to show the Chinese government in a bad light. In addition, they have blocked internet access to entire provinces when those provinces were involved in social unrest, similar to moves taken by the government of Iran.