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China becomes w,n

Chinese net users, AP
A majority of Chinese net users go online via broadban

China now has the world's largest net-using population, say official figures.

More than 253 million people in the country are now online, according to statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

The figure is higher than the 223 million that the US mustered in June, according to Nielsen Online.

Net penetration in the US stands at 71% compared to 19% in China suggesting it will eventually vastly outstrip the US.

The development is significant because the US has had the largest net-using population since records of how many people were online started to be kept.

"This is the first time the number has drastically surpassed the United States, becoming the world's number one," said a statement from the CNNIC, the nation's official net monitoring body.

The 2008 figure is up 56% in a year, said CNNIC. Analysts expect the total to grow by about 18% per annum and hit 490 million by 2012.

About 95% of those going online connect via high-speed links. Take up of broadband has been boosted by deals offered by China's fixed line phone firms as they fight to win customers away from mobile operators.

China's mobile phone-using population stands at about 500 million people.

Despite having a greater number of people online, China's net economy still has a long way to go to match or exceed that of the US or even that of South Korea.

Figures from Analysys International said China's net firms reported total revenues of $5.9bn (£2.96bn) in 2007. By contrast net advertising revenue alone for US firms in 2007 stood at $21.2bn (£10.6bn).

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