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Mobile devices have almost completely conquered the internet landscape in China. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), 95.1% of internet users in the country used a mobile device to access the internet in 2016.
The CNNIC, which released its annual “Statistical Report on Internet Development in China” in January 2017, found that mobile internet users in the country totaled 695.3 million last year—a figure that’s more than double the US population.
The CNNIC estimated the total number of internet users in China at roughly 731 million in 2016, up from around 688 million a year earlier. But internet use still has a long way to go before it reaches the penetration rate seen in more developed countries. According to the CNNIC, 53.2% of China’s population now goes online.
Looking at the US by comparison, eMarketer estimates the US will have an internet penetration rate of 83.7% by the end of this year.
China will likely see strong internet adoption in rural areas over the coming years. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics China, just over half of the country’s population lived in urban areas as of the end of 2015. These city-dwellers make up a highly disproportionate element of internet users; the CNNIC’s data showed that 72.6% of internet users in China live in cities, with the balance residing in the countryside. However, internet adoption by those in rural areas has been slow.
Several companies have dedicated significant resources to hasten the adoption of the internet in rural China with an eye toward developing an even larger user base. For instance, Alibaba has launched an initiative called “Rural Taobao,” which looks to establish “service centers” in 100,000 villages over the next few years. These centers provide far-flung villages with internet access and a computer.
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