Report: Internet in China tops 54 million users

– China had 54.4 million Internet users at the end of September, according to a speech delivered by a senior government official at a national Internet conference on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The figure was delivered by Su Jinsheng, director general of the Telecommunication Administration Bureau of China’s Ministry of Information Industry at a conference in Shanghai, according to Xinhua. Su also said the number of computers connected to the Internet in China was just under 21 million at the end of September while the number of Web sites at the same time was almost 82,000, the news agency reported.

The latest figure, if correct, marks a huge jump from the 45.8 million users counted at the end of the June this year by the China Internet Network Information Center’s (CNNIC) twice yearly survey of the Chinese Internet. That survey itself marked a 35.5 per cent expansion in the Chinese Internet population in the first six months of this year from 33.7 million users at the end of 2001.

However, it was not possible to verify whether the latest figure was collected to the same base as CNNIC’s survey. The CNNIC survey counted 300,000 Web sites of which 126,000 were hosted under the .cn country code and 16.1 million host computers connected to the network.

A report earlier this year by AC Nielsen came up with a similar user figure of 56.5 million although qualified that it was counting potential Internet users-all members of households that had an Internet connection.

“It’s the right order of magnitude,” said Ted Dean, an Internet analyst with Beijing-based research company BDA China Ltd., although he was cautious on making a comparison between the latest figure and CNNIC’s survey.

“It’s probably not feasible,” he said referring to a jump from 45.8 million users at the end of June to 54.4 million at the end of September. “I don’t know what the data sets are but there is often a problem comparing apples to oranges with Internet market research.”