China's Internet user base experienced marked growth in the first half of 1999 to reach 4 million, up from 2.1 million in January, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). Still, this represents a mere 0.3% of the country's 1.2 billion population.
A report released by CNNIC earlier this month under the title “Report on Internet Development in China” provided the results of a survey of 52,549 Internet users. It found that users located in key markets including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong constitute over 40% of the total Internet user population, of which 85% is male.
User profiles show that most are in the 21 to 25 age group (39.9%), followed by 26 to 30 (27.1%), 31 to 35 (11.4 per cent) and 16 to 20 (9.8%). Most of the users have obtained a higher education; 48% are university graduates and 27% are diploma holders.
With respect to income, 29% of the users surveyed earn a modest 500 renminbi (US$60.4) to 1,000 renminbi per month, with about the same%age making 1,000 renminbi to 2,000 renminbi per month.
Most respondents use the Internet for e-mail, search engine functionality, uploading and downloading software and researching information on the Web. The information users look for most often includes general news (84%), information technology, (68%), entertainment (47%) and information on science and technology (41%). However, about one third of those surveyed are not satisfied with the availability of science and medical information on the Web.
The three most popular sites in China -- the sites users most often adopt as their default home pages -- are portal sites: Sina.com.cn, Sohoo.com.cn and 263.net.
In spite of the phenomenal growth, over 95% of the respondents complain about slow transmission speeds, expensive access fees and the lack of Chinese-language information on the Internet.
On the question of what holds the most potential for electronic commerce in the country, users cited paid content (20%), online communication (20%), online shopping (16%), online education (11%) and virtual community (9%) as the top five.
Although a majority of those surveyed expressed an interest in making purchases online in the future (85%), over a third are concerned with the lack of goods and of guaranteed service quality. Other major concerns that users have about online shopping include security (30%), difficulty in making payments (22%), unattractive price (8%) and time-consuming delivery (6%).
According to the report, about 1.46 million computers in Mainland China are connected to the Internet, over 80% of which use dial-up connections.
CHART: Usage of the Internet
(Interviewees could choose more than one option)
Search engine 65.5%
Uploading and downloading software 59.6%
Checking for information 54.8%
Internet chat 29.2%
Bulletin board service (BBS) 28.0%
Personal Web page 21.6%
Online gaming 15.8%
Internet paging 14.8%