AFP is reporting that the number of internet users in China rose to 384 million by the end of 2009, citing a report from the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC). The online community in the world’s most populous nation increased by 28.9% compared to the end of 2008. Users accessing the internet with mobile phones jumped by 120 million to 233 million, on the back of the rapid 3G network rollout by China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile.
The growing strength and influence of the web population has prompted concern in Beijing about the internet’s potential as a tool for generating social unrest, and authorities have stepped up surveillance in recent years. The government blocks web content that it deems politically sensitive in a vast system dubbed the ‘Great Firewall of China.’ This week, Google said it was considering shutting down its google.cn search engine and ending its operations in China altogether over a series of cyber attacks believed to have originated in the Asian nation. It also said it was no longer willing to filter its search results, as demanded by Chinese government censors.