Information Warfare: How The Internet Created Modern China


April 11, 2014: By the end of 2013 China had over 3.5 million websites hosted within its borders and thus under the authority of the Chinese Internet censors (the Golden Shield organization and its two million employees). These 3.5 million websites used over 4.6 million domain names and were operated by over 2.8 million organizations (70 percent) and individuals (30 percent). There are over 620 million Internet users in China, about 43 percent of the population. In the U.S. its 81 percent, while Japan is 79 percent, Russia is 54 percent and Hong Kong (a semi-autonomous part of China) is 73 percent. The first Chinese web page went live on the Internet in 1994.

Internet growth was slow at first in China but after the 1990s is rapidly accelerated. By 2004 there were 87 million Internet users in China. That was a 28 percent increase over 2003. While that was only seven percent of the population, it was a very well off and well educated fraction of the population. Sixty percent of them were male, and 54 percent were 24 years old, or younger.  Moreover, these Internet users were found throughout China, meaning that any information the government did not want distributed could now get past the censors and to the general population. The government had already begun investing heavily in software and hardware to control what Chinese Internet users could access. But these censorship techniques have not stopped stories that do the most damage. If there is an event that would embarrass the government, it got through to most Internet users, and this has increasingly caused the government to respond to the public will.

By 2007 there were 132 million Internet users and 265 million by 2009. By now the average Internet user was older and more frequently female. There was then a big jump to 400 million Internet users in 2010 and nearly twice as many cell phone users. Now nearly all adult (and most teenage) Chinese had a cell phone. By 2011 there were 465 million Internet users and that rose to 620 by 2014. Thus in a decade Internet users in China increase seven fold. In twenty years it went from a handful to nearly half the population. That has changed everything and the government is still trying to get a grip on it all.  Meanwhile India, where only 13 percent of the population has Internet access, sees this disparity as one reason India, with about the same number of people as China, is falling farther behind the Chinese in economic and military power.



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