Despite constant media attention surrounding the Internet in China, people still know very little about this new Internet frontier. Hardly anyone can tick off the names of dotcoms that are a part of daily life for Chinese Internet users. We know all about using MSN Messenger to chat with friends, to buy a book, and eBay to sell a vintage collection of Rolling Stones LPs. Not so in China. Exit MSN Messenger. The young (typically urban) Chinese Internet community uses QQ to chat online and goes to (recently acquired by or DangDang Bookstore Online to by the latest Harry Potter book in Chinese. For online buying and selling, Shanghai and Beijing websurfers log into, the country’s leading online auction site with over 10 millions users—20 times more than are registered with its competitor eBay China.

This face of the Internet may be largely unknown to the general public in Western countries but constitutes an increasing portion of the global Internet. Mandarin is already the second most “spoken” language on the Web, after English. According to Alexa statistics (, three of the 10 most-visited sites worldwide are Chinese.

These telling figures can largely be attributed to the impressively large community of Chinese Internet users, estimated at 128 million for 2006 by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). That’s 17 million more than last year. They can also be explained by the fact that people in Asia tend to be early adopters of new communications media, particularly when it comes to the Internet and cell phones.

This Special Report was produced by Patrice Nordey, head of L’Atelier activities in Asia, in collaboration with Julie Desné.

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