China now has the highest number of internet users in the world and had the largest growing online population of 2008, a report suggests.

Internet users in China soared nearly 42 percent to 298 million by the end of 2008 from the previous year, making them the world's largest Internet population, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) said.

China surpassed the United States as the biggest user of the Internet last June.

Internet penetration in China reached 22.6 percent by the end of 2008. The global average for Internet penetration is 21.9 percent.

News portals in China, such as Sina Corp and Inc, are the major sources of information for a large number of Internet users across the country

However, internet use is restricted in China as the government regularly blocks Web sites and blog postings that it considers to be a threat to state security.

Last week, officials announced a crackdown on 91 Web sites that it said featured lewd content. Sites that have been blacklisted include, Baidu while Microsoft MSN is now also on the list of temporarily banned web sites.