China to overtake US on internet use

Can you believe it?

The Chinese are more internet crazy than the Americans?

See here for BBC News

“A large part of the attraction of the internet is that it goes below the radar,” he said. “Generally it’s more difficult for the government to be able to control it.”

“Its real value is as an open window onto what’s happening elsewhere in the world”

Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 11:22 GMT

Chinese ‘to overtake US net use’

The net is steadily becoming more popular in China
The Chinese net-using population looks set to exceed that of the US in less than three years, says a report.
China’s net users number 100m but this represents less than 8% of the country’s 1.3 billion people.

Market analysts Panlogic predicts that net users in China will exceed the 137 million US users of the net by 2008.

The report says that the country’s culture will mean that Chinese people will use the net for very different ends than in many other nations.

Social change

Already net use in China has a very different character than in many Western nations, said William Makower, chief executive of Panlogic.

In many Western nations desktop computers that can access the net are hard to escape at work. By contrast in China workplace machines are relatively rare.

This, combined with the relatively high cost of PCs in China and the time it takes to get phone lines installed, helps to explains the huge number of net cafes in China.

Only 36% of Chinese homes have telephones according to reports.

“Net usage tends to happen in the evening,” said Mr Makower, “they get access only when they go home and go off to the internet café.”

“Its fundamentally different usage to what we have here,” he said.

Computer hardware is still expensive for many Chinese people

Net use in China was still very much an urban phenomenon with most users living on the country’s eastern seaboard or in its three biggest cities.

The net is key to helping Chinese people keep in touch with friends, said Mr Makower. Many people use it in preference to the phone or arrange to meet up with friends at net cafes.

What people can do on the net is also limited by aspects of Chinese life.

For instance, said Mr Makower, credit cards are rare in China partly because of fears people have about getting in to debt.

“The most popular way to pay is Cash-On-Delivery,” he said, “and that’s quite a brake to the development of e-commerce.”

The arrival of foreign banks in China, due in 2006, could mean greater use of credit cards but for the moment they are rare, said Mr Makower.

But if Chinese people are not spending cash online they are interested in the news they can get via the net and the view it gives them on Western ways of living.

“A large part of the attraction of the internet is that it goes below the radar,” he said. “Generally it’s more difficult for the government to be able to control it.”

“Its real value is as an open window onto what’s happening elsewhere in the world,” he said.

Government restrictions on how much advertising can appear on television means that the net is a source of many commercial messages Chinese people would not see anywhere else.

Familiarity with the net also has a certain social cachet.

“It’s a sign of them having made it that they can use the internet and navigate around it,” said Mr Makower.

40 thoughts on “China to overtake US on internet use”

  1. So how many hits from China do the web sites of the Telegraph, Spectator, Conservative Party and this blog receive every week?

  2. Good question Tom

    I wonder how we could find out – if they do log in, their command of the language must be pretty good

  3. I used to get hits from China on a youth magazine I ran, quite a few of them. I say good for the chinese, their government are attrocious (yet somehow they avoid the labels that the less powerful nations get of ‘evil’) so good for the chinese to be finding ways round state control.

  4. There are more chinese than americans, so logically even though China has a lower percentage of internet users, their number of users will still be higher than a country with a smaller population but a higher percentage of internet users.

    Now that China has the internet, they can do away with old-fashioned billboards and concentrate on e-banners saying “Work Hard” and “Enjoy the Redness of this Banner.”

  5. Dear Boris,
    Very upset that you are curtailing my access to the Spectator online. I shall miss it immensely.
    Can you not be prevailed upon to change your mind?It was lovely being able to read the spec for free and restricting access only limits your capacity to advise and influence. Things will be very dull without you.

  6. I think I read somewhere that a lot of news websites are blocked from China – I guess they can do this as it seems that most people access the web from ‘internet cafes’, where access can be controlled.

    Big Brother is very big in some parts of the world. We should be grateful at the freedoms we have.

  7. Here’s the Top 10 from the January stats of Boris’s weblog. China comes in at 7th.

    Great Britain – 22752 pages viewed
    United States – 15404 pages viewed
    European Union – 11660 pages viewed
    Germany – 1388 pages viewed
    Norway – 793 pages viewed
    Australia – 547 pages viewed
    China – 501 pages viewed
    Japan – 359 pages viewed
    Netherlands – 315 pages viewed
    Spain – 178 pages viewed

    Oh, and the referral logs revealed something interesting. This month, 9 people found this weblog by searching for ‘gordon brown miseryguts’…


  8. Tim, am I the only one from Italy viewing the Boris blog? I feel lonely! Or am I (shudder) included in the European Union?

  9. Vanessa: Plenty of visitors from Ireland, Canada, Sweden, Italy, France, South Africa and Belgium – just not in the top 10 is all.

    EU is a grouping under certain servers. It’s also possible that many visitors from Northern Ireland are classified as Brits.

  10. cooooweeee!

    I hope we didn’t paint Gordon Brown as too misery guts !!!

    However eeeyuk we may think he is – that would be unfair for a blog description

    Amazing stats Tim – love the international aspect of the viewing – Colossal

  11. Thanks Tim, I was afraid that I was lumped within the EU heading. Such a horrible thought that it could ruin my week end.

  12. > Michael: I wouldn’t believe everything you read at

    Did I say I did? “Google Watch” wasn’t, in any vase, where I originally read the story but merely what came up when I searched for it again. And yes I know about the “missing pictures” that are still there. China is another matter: it seems to me there’s a question mark there – but I’ve no firm opinion.

  13. My favourite internet cafe was in Beijing: the Sanlian Shudian Internet Cafe, above a bookshop at 22 Meishuguan Dongjie (telephone 6400 1122 extension 3057), behind the Zhongguo Meishuguan (‘National Institute of Fine Arts’). It had excellent coffee and cakes and I nominated it for some kind of award for the best internet café in the world. That was a few years ago. I am not sure if it is still there. I hope it is.

    The Chinese (of the eastern cities) are the product of a paradox which is also true of eastern Europe. The government provided them with a good rational, secular education and then denied them access to knowledge, books and the world. They taught them to challenge past authority, and then denied them freedom to question present authority.

    So, the Chinese have a great hunger for information and technology. It’s hardly surprising that they love the internet. Would that the Brits had a tenth of their motivation! What couldn’t we accomplish in our whinging little, mortgage-fixated, TV-zombie, stay-at-home islands if we had just a ounce of the positive spirit of the Chinese!

  14. Good point Simon – looks like China is set to be the window to the rest of the world such is their zest and appetite

    Let’s hope their positive spirit rubs off on us all so we too are full of Eastern promise

  15. I must share this with you all: I was searching on Google for “censorship of the internet” to look stuff up about the restrictions in China and other countries, like Iran, when I came across (for no reason that I can think of) the gloriously bonkers – what a shame it is no longer updated! As the site says: “This country, nay this planet, is going to the dogs. The evidence is in the newspapers every day.”


  16. Thank you Melissa – but you are working some seriously long hours here! But then, come to think about it, you did look rather Chinese in that photo with Boris . . .

  17. I would have thought that this site would have been censored from the china end of the net. After all would they like their people reading outspoken sites such as this?

  18. Picking up on Charlotte’s earlier comment: both The Spectator and The Sun have started restricting online access to their articles at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME.

    It’s a plot, don’t try to deny it.

  19. Simon – well, what can I say? not sure there is any Eastern extraction – but who knows?

    plucky comment Scaryduck .. not sure of the plot tho’

    Nick – true – this site could be too avant-garde for some…especially if they read about your dazzling South Cal number! Goodness knows what their reaction might be to that

  20. Nick,

    Chinese censorship is finely tuned. Much of what happens in a western democracy is irrelevant to the Chinese for cultural rather than political reasons.

    It’s also accepted by people in China that they can’t expect to enjoy the kind of personal freedoms that we enjoy in Europe for economic rather than political reasons (e.g. population control etc.).

  21. I’m worried about all this Chinese net censorship.

    I am aware that my own blogging service is blocked by China.

    Why am I worried? Two reasons, firstly, I believe in freedom of speech.

    Secondly, I shall be moving to China shortly to work. I don’t know what I will find in terms of internet access for my blog.

  22. James Borton in the Hong Kong-based Asia Times has a fascinating article about blogging in China: A blogger’s tale: The Stainless Steel Mouse

    The Public Security people in China monitor publications in Chinese (and that now includes blogs), focussing on a number of highly-sensitive ‘national security’ issues.

    However the Chinese, for the past 2,000-odd years, have been expert at alluding indirectly, through historical analogies. at current political events. It’s a local art form!

  23. Yes, the advert – saw it on page 8 (after looking thru the paper twice – s’pose the granny giving birth story on the facing page shifted my eye..)

    Michael Howard has made a valid point and comes across as accessible by giving his URL.

    What struck me is that commonsense in spades will not win hearts and minds. What about the _yay !!_ factor. Something very heartening or warm and funny, dynamic and _really wow_.

    C’mon what could that be? what could burst the seams? really crack people’s ribs with laughter or open their minds to a brand new invigorating way of thinking? It is wonderful to be gripped with political imagination and get others hopping with joy or with a sense of new freedoms opened and concerns unburdened. On immigration I would keep quiet – I would go for cutting ourselves off EU’s apron strings. That would free up the country economically, politically, socially – the UK Presidency of the Council of the EU in July 05 should be interesting

  24. I think you are right about keeping quiet about immigration – the majority of people agree with the Tory stance (but then don’t Labour *claim* to be tough on immigration too?) but they don’t, I feel, like talking about it, or indeed hearing about it. The Tories must focus on what differentiates them from the other parties. What they must not do is (a) get forced to take up more ‘extreme’ positions to increase those differences; and (b) get dragged into fighting on issues which are strong for the Government. They should also not get too excited about the ‘neo-conservative’ (which, like New Labour, is neither) ideas from across the pond – despite a recent mention by the Social Affairs unit and Melanie Phillips.

    Europe is an obvious issue where the Tories both differ from the other 2 parties and are in agreement with a large majority of the population. Trouble is, at the moment, it isn’t really an issue that has much importance to that many people. So it could be an important part of a Tory manifesto, but not the all-important issue.

    Perhaps one thing that can be done is to consider things that British people are worried about, and then to come up with solutions that fit in with traditional Conservative values. One issue that is of great important to many (young) people is that of the difficulty of buying a first home. Could the Tories come up with an innovative way of helping people get onto the property ladder – as one’s right to private property is an important tenet of Conservatism.

    I’ll stop there as this is turning into an essay. Would like to know what other Borisphiles think.

  25. I’m actually surprised how quickly this has come for China. Do we not remember them sending their first man into space last year (or the year before… I forget).

  26. Melissa and Dave,

    Right or wrong, the Guardian suggest that Howard has changed direction because of the UKIP vote in the European elections, and that current Tory policies are designed to get back that vote.,11026,1397037,00.html

    Without taking a position on this, I’d suggest that any political party can only do a certain amount of campaigning on negative issues such as immigration and crime, and have to produce some attractive positive ideas to get themselves elected.

    While the Tories are unlikely to put forward a strong message on public services or foreign policy, I would have thought they could address the hugely important subject of modernization, and do a lot better on the environment, personal liberties and the arts.

    Melissa: how about a new entry on election strategy rather than burying it this Chinese internet topic?

  27. This bodes well for the future. The internet is an excellent medium for the free exchange of ideas, and also an excellent tool for like minded political thinkers to join together.

    Eastons classic political systems theory states that regimes only maintain legitimacy as long as their outputs are sensitive to the peoples intputs.

    With increasing education levels, and rising standards of living (with rising expectations) China’s fascist rulers are on a sticky wicket.

    Indonesias fasict regime managed to survive in similar conditions well into the 90s, but collapsed when previously high levels of economic growth fell. Perhaps the same will happen in China.

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