On The Web, A Tale of Two Chinas

After last week’s announcement by the National Bureau of Statistics that income equality had reached potentially destabilizing levels, Tea Leaf Nation’s Eli Binder explores whether Internet penetration corresponds with economic development in China:

Last Monday, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) published its annual report on the nation’s internet usage and infrastructure. According to the report, the Chinese internet continues to boom, with usage swelling 10% to 564 million users in 2012. But the report also shows that the country’s internet use – much like its economy – is highly uneven.

While web penetration in Beijing surpassed 72% in 2012, fewer than 30% of residents in the interior province of Jiangxi are internet users. To put those figures in perspective, Beijing’s internet usage is comparable to that of Hong Kong or Israel. Jiangxi, on the other hand, lags behind Uzbekistan, Bolivia, and Tuvalu.

In terms of the production of online content, the gap is even wider. Beijing-based websites host over 38 billion web pages, or an average of 1,890 pages per city resident. Tibetan-based sites host fewer than 3.5 million pages, or just over one page per person.