China's Internet users outnumber U.S. population

China's broadband users and the number of .cn Web sites are also first in the world, China said

China's Internet users have surpassed the U.S. population in number, and more Chinese than ever are using e-commerce and accessing the Web through mobile phones, according to official statistics.

China had 338 million Internet users at the end of last month, the most in any country, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) said late Thursday.

Chatting on message boards, cruising around social networking sites and pursuing other entertainment were among the most popular activities for Web users, the center said in a report posted on its Web site. The number of Internet users who watched videos online rose 10 percent from six months ago. More than one-fourth now shop online.

China also led the world in the number of registered Web sites, nearly 13 million, using its .cn top-level domain, the report said.

Almost all of the reported figures rose substantially this year. Nearly all of the Internet users had broadband, which China is working to link to more remote areas

But the report gave mixed signals on the prospects for mobile broadband, which China is also pushing. The number of Chinese who used mobile phones to access some online services rose to 155 million, but just one in four of those people said they would use 3G to surf the Web in the future, the report said.

High prices and limited coverage so far have kept down 3G take-up despite aggressive marketing by China's three mobile carriers.

The report also showed the severity of malware and other security problems in China. Over 100 million Chinese had passwords or account numbers stolen in the first of this year, and almost twice as many experienced virus or trojan attacks, it said.

Despite the huge numbers, only one in four Chinese is already an Internet user, the report said.

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Owen Fletcher

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