Posted by Maya Alexandri on Monday, October 22, 2007 at 10:08 AM
This figure represents a 10 million increase over the last count, by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), released in July 2007, which found that China had 162 million Internet users. This rate of increase is consistent with the rate of growth of China's Internet population since January 2007, when CNNIC counted 137 million Internet users. Thus far in calendar year 2007, approximately 4 million Chinese people go online for the first time every month.
Nonetheless, this latest surge in Internet usage coincides with a period of increased surveillance and restriction of Internet activity, in advance of the 17th Party Congress. The closing of Internet data centers and the consequent shutting down of thousands of websites doesn't seem to be deterring Chinese people from going online.
Indeed, it's possible that the restrictions on press reporting, both on- and offline, is actually spurring Internet use. In the first half of 2003, for example, during the SARS crisis, 9 million Chinese people went online for the first time, and almost 50% of users reported an increase in their Internet usage during SARS. Silencing the press anywhere is likely to pique interest, and despite the surveillance, China's Internet is still a place to sate such curiosity. As blogger Lian Yue said in a recent email interview with your correspondent, "For people who have even just a little Internet experience, you can pretty much get any information you want to know."
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