China Hits 485 Million Internet Users -- Or Does It?

Brad Chacos

China talks big when it comes to the Internet. Not just big as in " Shutting down 1.3 million Chinese websites in 2010 ," but also big as in "Holy crap that's a lot of people on the Internet." A Chinese non-profit group with ties to the government says the country's population continues to jump on the Interwebs bandwagon in droves. Heck, they claim the number of Chinese people who use Internet-enabled cellphones now outnumber the entire US population. But some experts are little leery of the numbers being tossed around.

The China Internet Network Information Center claims that 27 million Chinese natives signed up for this newfangled Internet thing since the first of the year, PC World reports . That brings the total number of Chinese Internet users to 485 million, by CINIC's count. Of those 485 million, it's claimed that 318 million access the Web with their mobile device (the US only has a total population of around 311 million). However, comScore and an IDG analyst disagree with the tally.

ComScore, you see, keeps its own tabs on the net, and by their count, the total number of connected Chinese added up to just 304 million users as of May. When comScore chucked Internet cafes into the mix, that number leaped as high as 415 million. That's still a ton of people, but 70 million less than CINIC claims. PC World throws doubt on the way CINIC's total is even calculated: apparently, the group considers a Chinese person an Internet user if they are over six years old and connected to the Web just once in the previous six months.

Even if CINIC's 485 million user claim turns out to be true, that still means that only about a third of all Chinese citizens connect to the Internet. CINIC says that an additional 815 million rural Chinese still don't have Internet access, and in fact, many don't even know how to operate a computer.

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