U.S. vs Chinese Internet users: Who's in a ghetto?

There has been some discussion on several China blogs recently about a statistic that only six percent of the hyperlinks on the Chinese Internet are to websites outside of China. You can follow the discussion on BlogNation, Shanghaiist and chez Thomas Crampton, and also chez Rebecca MacKinnon, and Tobias Escher.

The question that immediately sprang to your correspondent's mind however was this: what percentage of the American Internet links to websites hosted in foreign countries or written in foreign languages. I have not been able to track down any numbers about this, but Deb Fallows of the Pew Internet and American Life Project sent me the results of a survey done in November 2005.

A random digit dial telephone survey of 1,931 Americans asked about where respondents got their online news from.

Only 12% of them said that they had ever got news from "the website of an international news organization, such as the BBC or Aljazeera". Only 3% said they had used such a source "yesterday". To put it in context, only 46% of respondents said that they got their news from "the website of a national TV news organization, like or

Nonetheless, it seems that America's Internet users are in as much of ghetto as their Chinese peers.

There are currently 10 Comments for U.S. vs Chinese Internet users: Who's in a ghetto?.

Comments on U.S. vs Chinese Internet users: Who's in a ghetto?

any argument that relies on americans' awareness of news or events outside their state, much less in other countries, is always going to be a bit spurious

Interesting--I wonder if the rise of social bookmarking sites such as Digg has had any impact? While there are seldom stories bookmarked to non-English language sites, they do somewhat more often link to British or Australian news sites. In 2005 these sites were still a relatively new idea, and even more recent in China, if I'm not mistaken.

Yes and no. The questions that immediately springs to the reader's mind are these:

How big is the American or Chinese Internet, compared with the size of the Italian Internet? If we examined Italian websites for "outgoing" links, how many would we find? Living in a large monolingual society means you don't have to watch porn in a foreign language.
Most people prefer to speak their native tongue if they have a chance, and I would suspect a majority of all web links point to sites for either commerce, entertainment, or personal sites, not to "hard news".

Americans can be very incurious and chauvinistic , but their press is free, and for the most part, remains unregulated. Although we've got our share of crap, besides the web, competitive and reliable television, radio and newspapers are all available. Quality information is available all over the US- it's whether Americans are using it properly that's the question.

Given that the PRC monitors websites for their content, and blocks sites which are politically unpalatable, what percentage of foreign websites of interest to Chinese people are available to read and link to, and how is the Chinese public damaged by lack of this access?

The 6% are all Japanese AV websites.

American's are in the ghetto for sure. Most of the Chinese don't know of or don't have access to popular sites outside of China. Whereas most of the Americans simply don't care about anything happening outside of their state or even more- the country.

There is a propensity with US websites to believe that the outside world does not exist at all.

>>Whereas most of the Americans simply don't care about anything happening outside of their state or even more- the country.

And they should because.... why exactly? Is there a prize you win if you're the most "foreign affairs savvy" country?

This great myth that some group of people, some nation, somewhere, are more "concerned" about foreign affairs than some other group of people, some other nation, elsewhere, is in reality just pathetically disguised prejudice.

France? Obsessed with domestic issues.
China? Obsessed with domestic issues.
USA? Obsessed with domestic issues.
UK? Obsessed with domestic issues.

Show me a country NOT completely obsessed with the domestic, and I'll show you a figment of your imagination.

6 percent is not bad, given English is a much more popular language than Chinese, used in the world minus China and US.

The % numbers should be corrected by Chinese, English web page numbers, because language barrier is a very significant factor.

Then, the next question beyond language barrier (Chinese vs. English) would be what is the difference between Chinese Internet and China's Internet?

As a Taiwanese, I have to say, although people from Mainland might like the idea Mandarin Chinese is the lingua franca of Chinese Internet, the links from Mainland to other Great China regions (Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, you can include those Chinese-written websites hosted in the US as well) is proportionally less than the other way around. It could be the consequence of Great Firewall and self-censorship.

For example, it is not uncommon to find links to .cn or even from websites. Try to find any links to in .cn websites could be frustrating. If you dare to find any links to in websites, then ....good luck!

Posted by: Shan | November 26, 2007 1:10 AM

The Dutch. I know cause I have lived there, news (TV, papers etc) from everywhere. Astonishing...

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives