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China Leads World in Internet Population

By 2018, more than three-quarters of a billion people in the country will be online

November 21, 2014

China is far and away the world’s largest internet market, in addition to being its largest country overall, according to new estimates of internet usage worldwide by eMarketer.

Internet Users and Penetration in China, 2013-2018 (millions, % of population and % change)

Internet usage in the country skews male, with 55.3% of the internet population being male in 2014. Just over half the male population of the country is online, compared to 43.7% of females. By 2018, eMarketer expects the internet population to be split exactly in half by gender—which will mean penetration rates are actually higher for women, who represent a minority of the country’s overall population.

Internet User Metrics in China, by Age, 2013-2018 (millions, % penetration and % share)

Penetration is significantly higher among younger adults than any other age groups. Among those ages 18 to 34, more than eight in 10 use the internet at least monthly this year. Penetration falls to just under 70.8% among 12- to 17-year-olds, slightly lower among 35- to 44-year-olds, and older and younger populations are much less likely to be online.

Penetration rates are expected to rise across all age groups throughout our forecast period, and will exceed 90% in 2018 among the population 12 to 44.

eMarketer bases all of its forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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