Exploring potential of China's 485 million Internet users

08:13, July 22, 2011      

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According to statistics released by China Internet Network Information Center on July 19, the scope of China's Internet users has reached 485 million and is expected to exceed 500 million by the end of 2011, with the Internet penetration rate standing at 36.2 percent.

China's Internet has undergone a radical shift from the first email sent by a Chinese person in 1987 to the "fission of speech" in the age of microblogging. From the high-tech dream of an elite minority to its integration into the lifestyle of one-third of Chinese people, Internet is relatively new in China, but its strength has been recognized as virtual reality, and its uncertainty is much more than what is known.

Doubtlessly, 485 million Internet users are the leading force in "changing the world with the Internet". Therefore, how they speak and how people in power respond to their voices are significant to China as it restructures.

The statistics also show that among all the Internet users in China, people under age 29 account for 58.1 percent and those under 39 make up 81.3 percent. Chinese with a college degree or higher take up 22.2 percent, while those with a middle school degree and below account for 43.8 percent. People with a monthly income below 2,000 yuan and no monthly income make up 62.9 percent. The analysis of the aforementioned data is not the only data in the statistical sense.

As a matter of fact, all Chinese Internet users are Chinese citizens. There is a real person behind every user's name and ID. Every Internet user is living around us. Their voices may be sensible or proud and their experience, perhaps rich or plain. The issues Internet users care about are from everyday life. Their judgment comes from the existing legal ethics. Their appeal represents the voices of the masses in certain aspects. Precisely because of this, General Secretary Hu Jintao reiterated that the Internet was an important channel for taking actions, making decisions, understanding the concerns of the public and pooling people's wisdom. We should not only respect the Internet users' right of being citizens but also take online public opinion as a barometer and frame of reference seriously, and take good care the 485 million Internet users.

It is said that the enthusiasm of Chinese Internet users is rarely seen, which is a thought-provoking statement. Recently, a crowd of Internet users gathered around a disputed public figure who was elected 19 times in seven years to be the "talent of public hearing" in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan province. The phenomenon was quite thought-provoking: why did only a few people register at the hearing? Why was Hu frequently selected? Why did those passionate Internet users choose to disappear in the real world? Internet users become more and more courageous in the virtual world but fewer of them care to follow up in the real world. It is an issue both Internet users and controllers need to tackle. It will be more an opportunity than a challenge to make maximum exploration of 485 million Internet users' potential and turn their online passion and enthusiasm into a force that can change reality.

If we could constantly improve the system and encourage participation, aunt Hu would not be repeatedly surrounded by the onlookers. If there were not so many food safety scandals, the online rumor such as "orange accident" would not travel so fast. If we did not passively respond to public incidents, there would be fewer "habitual queries" and "unconditional objections." If there were enough channels for safeguarding rights, online breaking news would not be so vigorous. All in all, if the disputes and problems can be effectively solved, the muted voices heard, the Internet users could find their strength in the real world, and the Internet would not only be a virtual society where online revelries were held.

The Internet is neither the "gang of the city" nor the "moral republic". The virtual world can only be made into reality with the precondition that Internet users constantly improve their attainment and ability to discuss government affairs. Controllers must keep their eyes both on the online world and problem-solving ability in the real world so that can they best explore the potentials of 485 million Internet users and form the basis for healthy Internet development and national growth.

The author is Fan Zhengwei and the article is translated by People's Daily Online editor Zhang Xinyi

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