The meteoric growth of China's Internet has great potential for development and will promote a freer flow of information, major website executives and experts attending a seminar in South China's Hainan Province said Monday.
China, the world's second largest Internet market after the United States, has 111 million Internet users. The number of netizens is expected to jump by at least 15 per cent annually before 2010.
"This means big business and enormous opportunities," said Wang Yan, chief executive officer of sina.com, a top Chinese portal listed on the New York Nasdaq stock exchange.
People hooked to the Internet now account for a mere 8.4 per cent of China's total population. Web-based business is still on the rise, according to the more than 70 executives and Internet researchers who attended the annual meeting of the Internet Information Service Commission of the Internet Society of China.
"Among the countries whose per-capita yearly GDP is less than US$2,000, China has witnessed the fastest growth of Internet sector, and the boom reflects China's effective yet market-friendly regulation," Wang said. Up to 20 Chinese firms have been listed abroad, mainly in the United States, with a gross market value exceeding US$10 billion.
Wang said that this success partly testifies to the authorities' guiding and overseeing the sector, and he believes there may exist a misunderstanding among some foreigner critics of China's Internet system.
Web executives and sector experts at the seminar said that keeping out "illegal and harmful" information from the Internet is a common practice worldwide.
"China's overseeing Internet content is in tandem with world norms. Many big websites in the world have explicit written rules on deleting or editing netizens' messages that they deem abusive, defamatory, offensive, obscene, or in violation of a specific law," said Professor Ming Dahong, of the Journalism Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Participants of the seminar echoed Professor Ming's views.
He Hongzhen, corporate affairs manager of the Nasdaq-listed Chinese top search engine baidu.com, said that it is responsibility for all Chinese Internet companies to strive for a healthy, orderly, and well-regulated Internet environment. He deemed that China's Internet management mode of "government regulation hand in hand with sector self-discipline" is effective and beneficial to the long-term net growth in China.
It remains an arduous task for the Internet sites to keep a sober mind in constantly ferreting out "illegal and harmful" information, typically obscene and pornographic content that poisons the young and vulnerable, particularly children.
According to a recent survey, young people under the age of 18 consist of 60 per cent of China's netizens.
Since its launch in June 2004, the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre has received more than 240,000 tips from the public complaining of illicit or irregular Internet-related content and acts. Of the total reports, 68.2 per cent are porn-related, and 8.2 per cent concerns Web gambling and fraudulence.
Experts said the reporting centre is identical to the functioning of the Internet Watch Foundation of the United Kingdom. China will soon join a 17-member world Internet overseeing federation, headquartered in Ireland, a source revealed.
"As a matter of fact, the unprecedented rapid growth of Internet has activated the democratic process of China's society, and made the country better informed and connected with the world community," said Huang Chengqing, secretary-general of the Internet Society of China.
Source: China Daily