China’s booming Internet population has defied attempts by its government to exert control and continues growing at the fastest rate of any nation in the world. There are currently 253,000,000 Chinese on the Internet compared to 223.1 million Americans. The Chinese figure represents a 56% increase from a year ago. This means approximately 19% of the Chinese population is online compared to 71% in the United States. It represents the first time another nation has soared ahead of the United States in access to the Internet. Of course, one dramatic difference is the extent of government interference with use of the Internet by Chinese authorities. Beijing blocks access to Web sites run by dissidents, human rights groups, and some foreign news media. For example, the Chinese population was blocked from seeing pictures or stories concerning Tibetan protests several months ago.
The research firm BOA China, says China’s online population should keep growing by 18% annually and will reach about 490 million by 2012, a number that exceeds the population of the United States. The bad news is continued Chinese government efforts to suppress dissident voices on the Internet. The good news is this spurt in Internet membership offers possibilities the creative ingenuity of those on Internet may one day surpass the ability of any government to suppress the voices of freedom.