China becomes top Internet user?

People who follow statistics about Internet usage in China have been waiting for it since the beginning of the year: the moment when more people in China are online than in the United States.

Loretta Chao in The Wall Street Journal has now called it, using statistics from Beijing-based consulting firm BDA:

China Is Likely Top Internet User

…In its own research, BDA China Ltd., a Beijing-based technology consulting concern, estimates that China has as many as 228.5 million Internet users, compared with 217.1 million in the U.S…

…BDA estimates that China’s online advertising market reached $1.3 billion in revenue in 2007, while U.S. Internet ad spending was expected to reach $21.4 billion in the same period, according to New York-based research company eMarketer Inc. Although the two numbers aren’t directly comparable, analysts agree the disparity of the ratios of user numbers to advertising dollars is vast.

Liu Bin, an analyst at BDA, says the Internet makes up only about 5% of advertising spending in China, compared with 10% in the U.S. But if China’s economy continues to grow and China’s Internet users increasingly choose the Internet over traditional forms of entertainment, China is bound to catch up…

…For now, China has only about a 16% Internet penetration rate, compared with a global average of 19.1% and the U.S.’s 69.7%, according to China Internet Network Information Center.

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