China's Internet Population Grows 19% in 2010 to 457 Million

Growth in Internet use continues despite restrictions on politically sensitive materia and social networking sites.

BEIJING — The number of Chinese surfing the Web rose to 457 million in 2010, as the use of mobile phones for e-commerce and entertainment spread rapidly, data released Wednesday by a state-backed industry group showed.

China's population of Internet users — now about 50 percent larger than the whole U.S. population — grew 19 percent in 2010 over the previous year, the quasi-government China Internet Network Information Center said.

CNNIC said the number of Chinese surfing the Web by mobile phone jumped 29.6 percent over 2009 to 303 million, and the number using online commerce rose 48.6 percent over 2009, although it gave no total.

Beijing’s one-party government actively promotes the Internet for business and education but uses an extensive censorship system to block online material it considers subversive. It also blocks Western social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter.

Online video companies such as Youku.com, which recently listed shares in New York and licensed Inception from Warner Bros., must self-censor all content or risk being shut down.

Non-Chinese web sites, such as Google, trying to gain greater access to China’s massive online marketplace have met with regulatory resistance. A year ago Google pulled out of China when it refused to self-censor and complained of Chinese hacking. 

A year later, Google is targeting Chinese firms wishing to advertise products for export to potential consumers searching Google outside of China.

China's rapid rise in Web use has been driven by economic growth that forecasters say was close to 10 percent last year following the country's rapid rebound from the global crisis.

-- The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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