China’s internet users nears 1 billion, reflecting changes in society

A report on China’s internet development has reflected some changes the country has been through over the last year.

By the end of 2020, China had 989 million net users, with nearly one third of them were in rural areas, according to the report. Between March and December 2020, the number of net users increased by 54.71 million in rural China, a growth rate much higher than that in urban areas.

A staff member helps a passenger scan the health tracking QR code before entering Kaili South Railway Station in southwest China’s Guizhou Province, Jan. 28, 2021. (Xinhua/Yang Wenbin)

According to Zhang Xiao, deputy director of the China Internet Network Information Center, the significant growth is partly attributable to the application of the QR code adopted to indicate people’s health status for COVID-19 prevention.

China’s anti-poverty campaign also saw massive use of the internet. The country has made remarkable outcomes in implementing internet-based initiatives to alleviate poverty, such as expanding internet coverage and promoting e-commerce in rural regions, the official said.

The internet plays a vital role in China’s poverty alleviation efforts. For instance, e-commerce has helped farmers sell agricultural products to more places and boost development of rural industries, Zhang noted.

Zhashui, a previously impoverished county in northwest China’s Shaanxi province, has lifted itself out of poverty as farmers started to sell local specialty fungus on live-streaming e-commerce.

The internet has boosted online education and medical services in rural areas as well. Today, almost all primary and middle schools across China have access to the internet, while telemedicine services have covered all poverty-stricken counties, the official noted.

Zhang also hailed the internet’s prominent role in encouraging enterprises to digitalize themselves and government departments to offer more e-government services amid the epidemic.

The report introduced the main highlights of China’s internet development last year. In 2020, about 90 percent of internet users used video apps, with short video apps being particularly popular among users.

Eighty percent of China’s netizens shopped online last year, making the country the world’s largest e-commerce market for eight consecutive years. Two-thirds of livestream viewers made orders during live-streaming sessions.

Forty percent of the country’s internet users ordered takeaway food, 30 percent of users learned online and worked remotely, and 20 percent of users received medical consultations online.

The 416 million who still do not use the internet are mostly elderly residents in rural areas. Zhang said that China has been launching new policies to help the elderly share digital dividends.

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