Chinese internet penetration up to 77.5 percent as number of netizens reaches 1.09b: report
Published: Mar 22, 2024 10:01 PM
internet companies Photo:VCG


China had 1.09 billion netizens as of December 2023, an increase of 24.8 million from the number in December 2022, bringing the internet penetration to 77.5 percent, according to a new report released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) on Friday.

Data from the 53rd Statistical Report on China's Internet Development released by the CNNIC shows that the internet has been playing an important role in promoting new industrialization, developing new quality productive forces and assisting economic and social development, as the overall recovery and improvement of China's economy continue to consolidate.

Liu Yulin, director of the China Internet Network Information Center, told the Global Times on Friday that as one of the most important digital technology breakthroughs in 2023, generative artificial intelligence (AI) has become deeply integrated with the real economy. The number of AI enterprises in China has exceeded 4,400. With the strong promotion of AI and other digital technologies, the transformation of the real economy toward digitization, intelligentization and greenization has been accelerating continuously to empower economic and social development.

According to the report, more people have shared the benefits of the development of the internet as it has become more accessible.

In 2023, China continued to accelerate the popularization of information services and narrowed the digital divide, with the urban-rural internet gap further narrowing. As of December 2023, the internet penetration in rural areas reached 66.5 percent, increasing by 4.6 percentage points from December 2022. The number of internet users in rural areas reached 326 million, an increase of 17.88 million compared to December 2022. Besides, application scenarios have continued to increase as the network infrastructure construction in rural areas has advanced.

Meanwhile, the digital divide between different groups continued to narrow in 2023, with the access to digital life for the elderly and the disabled increasingly guaranteed. According to the report, 2,577 websites and applications commonly used by the elderly and the disabled have completed aging-friendly and barrier-free renovations, with over 140 million smartphones and smart TVs upgraded to be elderly-friendly.

The public service applications in terms of transportation and health services are accelerating their coverage. The scale of users of online car-hailing and internet hospitals increased by 90.57 million and 51.39 million compared with the number in December 2022, up 20.7 percent and 14.2 percent, respectively.

Zhang Xiao, deputy director of the China Internet Network Information Center, told the Global Times on Friday that netizens' demand for transportation and travel was fully released in 2023, with the scale of users of car-hailing and online travel booking services increasing by 80 million compared with 2022.

The online car-hailing regulatory information exchange system received over 9 billion order messages throughout the year, up 30.8 percent year-on-year. Indicators such as the number of travelers and tourism revenue during major holidays surpassed the figures from the same period in 2019.

The report also showed that the development of internet applications allowed for more consumption and development of the digital economy, helping to boost the recovery of China's economy.

According to Li Mingtao, chief e-commerce expert at China International Electronic Commerce Center, the scale of online shopping users in China increased to 915 million as of December of 2023, an increase of 69.67 million from December 2022, up 8.2 percent. This led to national online retail sales of 15.4 trillion yuan ($2.13 trillion) in 2023, contributing to the continuous 11-year leadership of online retail sales in the world.

According to Li, China's cross-border e-commerce maintained rapid growth in 2023, becoming an important new driver for foreign trade. The total import and export volume of cross-border e-commerce reached 2.38 trillion yuan for the whole year, an increase of 15.6 percent.

The report showed that entertainment and tourism consumption, characterized by immersive and cultural experiences, have seen accelerated recovery. As of December of 2023, the number of online travel booking users reached 509 million, an increase of 86.29 million compared with December 2022, representing a growth rate of 20.4 percent.

Domestic trendy products continued to constitute an important component of residents' online shopping consumption. Over the past six months, 58.3 percent of internet users have purchased such trendy products online.

China's online video environment also continues to improve, with content supply being constantly enriched.

Zhou Jie, deputy secretary-general of the China Netcasting Services Association, said on Friday that as of December 2023, the scale of online video users in China reached 1.06 billion, accounting for 97.7 percent of the overall internet users. Among the 24.8 million new internet users, 37.8 percent used online video applications when they used the internet for the first time, which was 21.7 percentage points higher than the second-ranking instant messaging (16.1 percent).

The report also showed the construction of digital infrastructure in China was further accelerated in 2023, with the number of IPv6 addresses reaching 68,042 blocks/32 and the registered number of ".cn" domain names growing to 20.13 million as of December 2023.

In terms of the Internet of Things (IoT), 3.37 million 5G base stations had been set up and there were 2.33 billion cellular IoT terminal users as of December 2023. The number of cellular IoT terminal users increased by 488 million compared with December 2022.

The high-quality development of mobile communication networks has driven innovation and development in various fields such as smart manufacturing, smart cities, rural revitalization and cultural tourism, providing a solid foundation and strong support for building a digital China.