For seven years now, Chinese academic Guo Liang has been tracking and analyzing patterns in Internet use in the People's Republic of China, presenting one of the most comprehensive overall pictures of the political and social effects of the technology. At a December event at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., Guo presented his latest findings from a survey of Internet usage and impact in seven Chinese cities.
Among his more interesting findings:
- The number of Chinese Internet users reached 162 million in June 2007, the second largest population of Internet users after the United States. This figure represents only 12.3 percent of the Chinese population.
- The percentage of respondents who believe the Internet should be controlled or managed has increased from previous years. While only 8% of respondents in 2005 felt political content should be controlled, 41% of respondents in 2007 felt it should be controlled. A majority of respondents felt that the government should be responsible for Internet management and control.
- A correlation can be observed between an increase in Internet use and a decrease in use and duration of watching TV and reading newspapers.
- The Internet in China is mainly used for reading news (mainly infotainment), seeking entertainment (music, movies and games), and communicating with others (instant messaging and email).
- People continue to perceive the Internet as a positive force for increased political participation and communication with government. However, this perception has been declining slightly. While people believe e-government can be helpful, there is limited popular knowledge and use of e-government websites.