World

China's online population hits 731 million, 95% access through cellphones

BEIJING The number of Internet users in China - already the world's highest - reached 731 million in December, the authorities said, as e-commerce drives consumer demand across the Asian giant.

Total Internet users rose 6.2 per cent from the end of December 2015 and equals the entire population of Europe, the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) said in a statement on Sunday on its website.

E-commerce is a vital part of the government's efforts to turn China into a consumer demand-driven economy, although Beijing also imposes strict controls on online content, barring citizens from accessing websites including Facebook and Google.

The government is pushing an "Internet plus" project that aims to expand the role of online technology in the economy.

The number of people who go online through cellphones has reached 695 million, or 95.1 per cent, as computers lose their appeal, said the CNNIC.

Online consumption has become an increasingly important part of the economy, the statement said, adding that its contribution to gross domestic product growth is gradually increasing.

As of Dec 12 last year, the number of people in China who paid online had reached 475 million, up 14 per cent year on year, said the CNNIC.

In one example of the growing power of China's online shoppers, consumers spent US$17.8 billion (S$25 billion) in e-commerce giant Alibaba's online shopping promotion on Nov 11 last year. That is more than twice the five-day desktop sales from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday in the US last year. - AFP

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