Survey: China Internet Use Soaring

There are 8.9 million Internet users in mainland China today, and nearly 10 percent of them have used the Internet to make purchases or payments, according to a survey released last week by China's official Net research group.

The Semiannual Survey Report on Internet Development in China, by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), showed Internet usage has soared since the last survey, reported in July 1999. The number of Internet users more than doubled from the July report, which estimated 4 million users.

The number of Web sites on the Chinese mainland also rose significantly, to approximately 15,153 from approximately 9,906.

The center, which is authorized by the State Council's Informatization Office, performed the survey in conjunction with China's four major networks.

The results are likely to encourage even greater interest among Internet service and content providers that are trying to capture what some see as a wide-open market in mainland China.

However, it found that most users' bandwidth is limited. It showed that most users (about 6.7 million) access the Internet through dial-up connections and expect to pay a low price for those links.

Although the most-used application among the more than 212,000 respondents is e-mail, a notable percentage use the Internet for financial transactions or for IP (Internet Protocol) telephony. Among their most frequently used services, 7.77 percent of users listed online purchasing and 1.79 percent listed online payments. IP telephony is used frequently by 7.58 percent.

Users are mostly male (79 percent), and most are young: 75.6 percent are between 18 and 30.

Internet users on the mainland share a fairly limited amount of international bandwidth. Connections provided by five service providers totalling just 351M bits per second (bps) link China with the rest of the world, and most users are not willing to pay a premium for scarce capacity. Of those surveyed, 57 percent said they expect to pay less than 100 renminbi (US$12) per month for dial-up access.

CNNIC can be reached on the Web at http://www.cnnic.net.cn.

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