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The world’s most populous country also has the largest and fastest growing online population.
The dragon country has now surpassed 649 million users, exceeding the entire U.S. population two to one.
The China Internet Network Information Center’s (CNNIC) 35th “China Internet Development Statistics Report,” documents online usage in the country for 2014, and identified the huge number of connected Chinese citizens.
The growth of mobile internet is largely attributed for the increase, with 80% of users, 557 million using smartphones and tablets to connect.
The rate of growth, however, is slowing somewhat, the report said, with 31 million new users added in 2014 compared to 54 million in 2013.
While the growth in mobile users was significantly higher than the overall increase that amounted to 57 million new mobile users logging on last year.
Despite the huge number and rapid growth of connectivity, the overall population size means that still a majority (52.1%) of Chinese have no access to the internet. Rural users are heavily outnumbered by their urban counterparts.
According to data compiled by the World Bank and United Nations amongst others, the US, after China has the second largest number of Internet users, with 280 million, followed by India (243 million) and Japan (109 million),
Those who are connected largely have a different user experience from internet users in the West, with sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google blocked or severely restricted.
Thousands of terms deemed sensitive by the government such as end one-party dictatorship are also banned.
Many Chinese internet users employed VPNs — virtual private networks — to get around the draconian censorship laws, prior to the crackdown. But now these VPNs are also being shut down.
Without unfettered access, however, some are concerned that China is strangling its nascent “knowledge economy.”