China Internet Users Hit 111 Million in 2005

The number of Web users in China, the world's second largest Internet market, grew by 18 percent in 2005 to 111 million, the Economic Daily reported on Wednesday.

Some 8.5 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people now had access to the Internet, the newspaper reported, citing a survey released by the China Internet Network Information Center.

State media previously predicted 120 Chinese million would be surfing the Web by the end of 2005 as computers find their way into more homes and domestic telecoms networks grow.

The 2005 gains represented an acceleration from 2004, when the number of Internet users grew 16 percent to 94 million.

More than half of China's Web population -- or about 64 million people -- accessed the Web via broadband connections, suggesting a 50 percent increase versus 2004 as China strongly promotes the development of its broadband networks.

The Internet's explosive growth in China has come despite the government's stepped-up efforts to control of the medium, in which occasional pockets of free speech have appeared in chat sites and blogs.

China is the world's No. 2 PC market, with nearly 16 million units shipped in 2004 and the number expected to have grown another 13 percent last year, according to data tracking firm International Data Corp.

PC makers, such as industry leaders Lenovo Group Ltd., Founder Group and Dell Inc., shipped 5.2 million units in the third quarter of 2005, according to IDC.

The growth of the Internet has also spawned a growing number of local online players, including Yahoo-invested e-commerce firm, Web portal Sina Corp., online game firm Shanda Interactive Entertainment and online search firm Inc..

Major mutlinationals attracted by the market's big growth potential have also set up shop in China, including online auctioneer eBay Inc., online retailer Inc. and online search leader Google Inc.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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