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Internet in China

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The first connection of the mainland of China with the Internet was established on 20 September 1987 between ICA Beijing and Karlsruhe University in Germany, under the leadership of Prof. Werner Zorn and Prof. Wang Yunfeng. Since then the Internet in China has grown to host the largest base of net users in the world.[1] The first email attempt was successfully sent out on 14 September 1987 with the contents "Across the Great Wall, we can reach every corner in the world" (simplified Chinese: 越过长城,走向世界; traditional Chinese: 越過長城,走向世界; pinyin: Yuèguò Chángchéng, Zǒuxiàng Shìjiè).[2][3] In the past decade, the Internet has emerged as a new cultural phenomenon in mainland China, much like in the West.


Internet Penetration Rates in East Asian and Chinese Regions 1995-2012

China had 618 million Internet users by the end of December 2013, a 9.5 percent increase over the year before and a penetration rate of 45.8%.[4] By June 2014, there were 632 million internet users in the country and a penetration rate of 46.9%. The number of users using mobile devices to access the Internet overtook those using PCs (83.4% and 80.9%, respectively).[5]

A majority of broadband subscribers are DSL, mostly from China Telecom and China Netcom. The price varies in different provinces, usually around US$5 – $20/month for a 4M - 100M ADSL/Fiber.(price varies by geographic region)[citation needed]

As of June 2011, Chinese Internet users spent an average of 18.7 hours online per week, which would result in a total of about 472 billion hours in 2011.[6]

Broadband makes up the majority of Internet connections in China, with 363.81 million users at this service tier. The price of a broadband connection places it well within the reach of the mainland Chinese middle class. Wireless, especially Internet access through a mobile phone, has developed rapidly. 500 million are accessing the Internet via cell phones.[4] The number of dial-up users peaked in 2004 and since then has decreased sharply.[citation needed] Generally statistics on the number of mobile internet users in China show a significant slump in the growth rate between 2008 and 2010, with a small peak in the next two years.[7]

By the end of 2009, the number of Chinese domestic websites grew to 3.23 million, with an annual increase rate of 12.3%, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.[8] As of first half of 2010, the majority of the Web content is user-generated.[9]


An important characteristic of the Chinese internet is that online access routes are owned by the Chinese government, and private enterprises and individuals can only rent bandwidth from the state.[10] The first four major national networks, namely CSTNET, ChinaNet, CERNET and CHINAGBN, are the "backbone" of the mainland Chinese Internet. Later dominant telecom providers also started to provide Internet services. Public Internet services are usually provided by provincial telecom companies, which sometimes are traded between networks. Internet service providers without a nation-wide network could not compete with their bandwidth provider, the telecom companies, and often run out of business. The interconnection between these networks is a big concern for Internet users, since Internet traffic via the global Internet is quite slow. However, major Internet services providers are reluctant to aid rivals[citation needed].


The January 2013 China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) report [11] states that 56% of Internet users were male, and 44% were female, and expresses other data based on sixty thousand surveys.

The majority of Chinese Internet users restrict their use of the internet to Chinese websites, as most of the population has a lack of foreign language skills.


According to Kaiser Kuo, the internet in China is largely used for entertainment purposes, being referred to as the "entertainment superhighway". However, it also serves as the first public forum for Chinese citizens to freely exchange their ideals.[12] Most users go online to read news, to search for information, and to check their email. They also go to BBS or web forums, find music or videos, or download files.

Content providers

Chinese-language infotainment web portals such as Tencent,, Sohu, and are popular. For example, Sina claims it has about 94.8 million registered users and more than 10 million active ones engaged in their fee-based services. Other Internet service providers such as the human resource service provider 51job and the electronic commerce web sites such as are less popular but more successful on their specialty. Their success led some of them to the make IPOs.

All websites that operate in China with their own domain name must have an ICP license from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Because the PRC government blocks many foreign websites, many homegrown copycats of foreign websites have appeared.[13]

Search engines

Top ten most popular search sites in China
As of September 17, 2013
By Unique visitors aged 15+, excludes traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes or mobile phones
Source: comScore qSearch[14][15]
China Share of searches (%)
Baidu 63.16
360 18.23
Sogou 10.35
Soso 3.62
Google 2.88
Bing 0.57
Yahoo 0.48
Youdao 0.16
other 0.09

Baidu is the leading search engine in China, while most web portals also provide search opportunities like Google China has also entered the Chinese market, however it now places a link to Google Hong Kong on its page because of an issue with hackers reportedly based in Mainland China.

Online communities

Although the Chinese write fewer emails, they enjoy other online communication tools. Users form their communities based on different interests. Bulletin boards on portals or elsewhere, chat rooms, instant messaging groups, blogs and microblogs are very active, while photo-sharing and social networking sites are growing rapidly. Some Wikis such as the Soso Baike and Baidu Baike are "flourishing". Until 2008 the Chinese Wikipedia could not be accessed from mainland China. Since 2008, the government only blocks certain pages on Wikipedia which they deem to contain controversial content.

Online shopping

The rapidly increasing number of Internet users in China has also generated a large online shopping base in the country. A large number of netizens have even been branded as having an "online shopping addiction" as a result of the growth of the industry.[16] According to, Chinese consumers with Internet access spend an average of RMB10,000 online annually.[17]

Online Mapping Services

China has endeavored to offer a number of online mapping services and allows the dissemination of geographic information within the country. Soso maps, Baidu maps (百度地圖) and Tianditu (天地圖) are typical examples. Online mapping services can be understood as online cartography backed up by a geographic information system (GIS). GIS was originally a tool for cartographers, geographers and other types of specialists to store, manage, present and analyze spatial data. In bringing GIS online, the Web has made these tools available to a much wider audience.[18] Furthermore, with the advent of broadband, utilizing GIS has become much faster and easier. Increasingly, non-specialist members of the public can access, look up and make use of geographic information for their own purposes.[19] Tianditu is China's first online mapping service. Literally World Map, Tianditu was launched in late October 2010. The Chinese government has repeatedly claimed that this service is to offer comprehensive geographical data for Chinese users to learn more about the world.

Online payment

Driven by prevalent Internet usage and the increase in the online retail sector, online payment services have also grown rapidly in China. As of January 2015, Alipay has 600 million counts of users and has the largest user group among all online-payment providers. [20]

Online gaming

As of 2009, China is the largest market for online games.[21] The country has 368 million Internet users playing online games[5] and the industry was worth US$13.5 billion in 2013. 73% of gamers are male, 27% are female.[22]

Adult content

Although restrictions on political information remain strong, several sexually oriented blogs began appearing in early 2004. Women using the web aliases Muzi Mei (木子美) and Zhuying Qingtong (竹影青瞳) wrote online diaries of their sex lives and became minor celebrities. This was widely reported and criticized in mainland Chinese news media, and several of these bloggers' sites have since been blocked, and remain so to this day. This coincided with an artistic nude photography fad (including a self-published book by dancer Tang Jiali) and the appearance of pictures of minimally clad women or even topless photos in a few Chinese newspapers, magazines and on several websites. Many dating and "adult chat" sites, both Chinese and foreign, have been blocked. Some, however, continue to be accessible, although this appears to be due more to the Chinese government's ignorance of their existence than any particular policy of leniency.


The Golden Shield Project was proposed to the State Council by Premier Zhu Rongji in 1993. As a massive surveillance and content control system, it was launched in November 2000, and became known as the Great Firewall of China. However, the blocking of websites can be circumvented and is generally ineffective at preventing the flow of information to determined individuals. The effectiveness of the project is the limitation of access it creates for the majority of users who are not technologically savvy or intent on seeking information. Some argue that it is more effective at providing a Chilling effect rather than actually blocking content.[citation needed]

The Chinese Internet has provided some interesting tactics for the dissemination of news. In contrast to some early fears that the fluidity of web content would make it easy to rewrite history and strengthen the hand of the government, the opposite appears to be happening. One common tactic in publishing sensitive topics is to post the article on a newspaper website, and then comply with government orders to take it down. By the time the article is removed, a large number of people will already have read it, thus negating the point of the censorship order[citation needed].

However, in fear of closure, online service providers sometimes hire moderators known as big mama to monitor user-provided content. Nevertheless, some officially supported websites such as the Strong Country Forum hosted by the People's Daily are less restricted than others in discussing sensitive topics.[citation needed]

Forbes magazine featured an article entitled “Cracks In the Wall (27 February 2006):

Amnesty International notes that China “has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world.” The "offences" these prisoners are accused of include "communicating with groups abroad", "opposing the persecution of the Falun Gong", "signing online petitions" and "calling for reform and an end to corruption".[23]

One of the most important censors in China is The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People's Republic of China (SAPPRFT) responsible for controlling both online and offline materials suspicious to be dangerous to social security and public order.


The Baidu 10 Mythical Creatures, initially a humorous hoax, became a popular and widespread internet meme in China.[24][25] These ten hoaxes reportedly originated in response to increasing online censorship and have become an icon of netizens' resistance to it.[26][27]

The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television issued a directive on 30 March 2009 to highlight 31 categories of content prohibited online, including violence, pornography and content which may "incite ethnic discrimination or undermine social stability". Many netizens believe the instruction follows the official embarrassment over the "Grass Mud Horse" and the "River Crab". Industry observers believe that the move was designed to stop the spread of parodies or other comments on politically sensitive issues in the runup to the anniversary of the 4 June Tiananmen Square protests.[28]

Cyber Attacks

In the second quarter of 2014, China is by far the main country of origin of cyber attacks, with 43% of the worldwide total.[29]

Internet advertising market

The size of China's online advertising market was RMB 3.3 billion in the third quarter 2008, up 19.1% compared with the previous quarter., Inc, Sina Corp and Google Inc. remain the Top 4 in terms of market share. Keyword advertising market size reached RMB 1.46 billion, accounting for 43.8% of the total Internet advertising market with a quarter-on-quarter growth rate of 19.3%, while that of the online advertising site amounted to RMB 1.70 billion, accounting for 50.7% of the total, up 18.9% compared with the second quarter.[30]

Currently, Baidu has launched the CPA platform, and Sina Corp has launched an advertising scheme for intelligent investment. The moves indicate a market trend of effective advertising with low cost. Online advertisements of automobiles, real estate and finance will keep growing rapidly in the future.[30]

Online encyclopedias

as of October 2012

See also

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  1. China Top of the World Pops for Net Use
  2. "中國接入互聯網.." Retrieved on 30 July 2009.
  3. "中国确认首封电子邮件越过长城走向世界." Retrieved on 1 August 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 CNNIC, CNNIC. "第33次中国互联网络发展状况统计报告" [33rd statistical report on Internet development in China]. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Paul Bischoff (2014-07-22). "China’s mobile internet users now outnumber its PC internet users". Tech In Asia. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  6. CNNIC, CNNIC. "30th statistical report on internet development in China". CNNIC. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  7. China Mobile Internet Market, China Internet Network Information Center, iResearch. February 2012.
  8. Zuo Likun, 4 May 2010, Websites in China mushroomed to over 3 million, China Daily
  9. "User-generated content online now 50.7% of total". China Daily. Retrieved 23 July 2010. 
  10. Herold, David Kurt (5202). "Escaping the World: A Chinese Perspective on Virtual Worlds". Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 5 (2). Retrieved 7 October 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. [1]
  12. Kaiser Kuo, TEDxHonolulu Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference, November 5, 2009
  13. Goldkorn, Jeremy. "YouTube = Youku? Websites and Their Chinese Equivalents." Fast Company. 20 January 2011. Retrieved on 5 May 2011.
  16. Statistics on the number of online buyers in China, eMarketer. February 2013.
  17. Xing Zhao, 2 April 2010, The high cost of China's Internet growth, CNN Go
  18. Tulloch, D. L. (2007) ‘Many, Many Maps: Empowerment and Online Participatory Mapping’, First Monday 12 (2)
  19. Chen, Yu-Wen (2010) Drawing Borders Alters Our World. Taipei Times, 19 December, [2]
  21. Hao Yan (2010-06-23). "China's online game revenue tops the world". Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  22. Steven Millward (2014-01-21). "Let’s take a look at China’s $13.5 billion online gaming industry (INFOGRAPHIC)". Tech In Asia. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  23. Global Internet Freedom Consortium (do not download anything from this site – it is a known Trojan supplier)
  24. 【贴图】百度十大神兽_水能载舟亦能煮粥. Retrieved on 16 April 2012.
  25. Hoax dictionary entries about legendary obscene beasts. Retrieved on 16 April 2012.
  26. Wines, Michael (11 March 2009). "A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censors". New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  27. Bobbie Johnson, ETech: The truth about China and its filthy puns, The Guardian, 13 March 2009
  28. Vivian Wu (3 April 2009). "Censors strike at internet content after parody hit". South China Morning Post. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 China's Internet advertising market hits RMB 3.34 bln in Q3. Retrieved on 16 April 2012.

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