By July, more than 87 million Chinese were "netizens," as China celebrated 10 years of being linked by the Internet to the outside world.

The Internet community in China has already multiplied 140 times in more than six years, soaring to its current level from just 620,000 users in 1997, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC)'s latest report, reported Tuesday's China Daily. The number was at 79.5 million by the end of last year.

China's connected population surpassed Japan's by the end of 2002, becoming the second largest in the world after the United States. Although large in size, the current number represents just 6.6 per cent of the country's total population, leaving room for vast growth.

The figures were released by the government-funded CNNIC in its 14th semiannual report, and show that 36.3 million computers are connected to the Internet, up 17.5% from half a year ago. There are almost 626,000 websites, up 32.2% compared with the same period last year. But the report said the digital gulf remains as about 90% of the websites are in the more developed provinces.


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