World’s largest internet market just got larger

The world’s biggest online market just got bigger. There are now 450-million Chinese internet users, which is just over a third of the country’s 1,3-billion-strong population, claims the country’s government.

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This is added to the country’s rapidly growing mobile internet user base. The China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) reported last year that there were at least 277 million mobile Web users in China, up 43 million in six months. This figure is likely to have now surpassed the 300-million mark. The total number of cellphone subscribers in China tops 600-million — all potential mobile internet users as the smartphone era advances.

“By the end of November, the number of netizens had reached 450 million, a rise of 20.3 percent compared to the same period last year,” said Wang Chen, minister for the press office of the State Council, China’s cabinet.

[ Source: Internet World Stats ]

The latest internet useage stats are an increase of 30 million — about half the size of a country like South Africa — since the number of web users was last given in July 2010.

“The coverage rate [or internet penetration] of the Internet in China is 33.9 percent — above the world average of 30 percent,” Wang told a press conference.

“These figures show the environment for the development of the Internet in China is sound,” he said.

The Internet has also become a lucrative marketplace. The value of online payments is expected to hit one trillion yuan (151 billion dollars) for the year, Beijing-based research company Analysys International said in a note.

One of China’s most promising internet success stories, Tencent’s QQ platform is challenging Facebook as the world’s largest social networking platform. QQ is an instant messenger and a social network.

In December 2010, ranked 9th overall in Alexa’s internet rankings, ahead of Twitter which ranked 10th. According to Business Day, TenCent had about 637-million registered users in December 2010.

South African-based Naspers bought 46,5% of Tencent for 32m as far back as 2001, making it the largest shareholder in the then three-year-old company. Then QQ had just 18-million accounts. The value of the Naspers’ stake, now diluted to 35%, has jumped more than 400-fold to exceed 14bn as Tencent turned into the world’s third-largest dot-com by market value.

China state control
China’s spiralling online population has turned the Internet into a forum for citizens to express their opinions in a way rarely seen in a country where the traditional media is under strict government control.

The growing strength and influence of the web population has prompted concern in Beijing about the Internet’s potential as a tool for generating social unrest, and authorities have stepped up surveillance in recent years.

The government blocks web content that it deems politically sensitive in a vast system dubbed the “Great Firewall of China”.

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