China now has 210 million Internet users, up 53 percent from the period a year ago and is likely to surpass the U.S this year, according to a Chinese survey.

China had 137 million Internet users at this time in 2006 and jumped 53 percent in 2007, the China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) reported on its website in its annual report on internet usage.

Currently China's online population is about 5 million less than that of the United States and is the world's second-largest, CNNIC said on its Web site. The agency forecasts China will become the largest online country in 2008.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 218 million of the nation's 310 million people used the internet in 2007.

CNNIC reported the largest growth came from users under the age of 18 and over 30. The largest growth came from rural areas with over 40 percent or 29 million users coming from cities outside of major urban centers including Beijing and Shanghai.

China's most popular Internet application is online music, which is used by 86.6 percent of those surveyed, with instant messaging in second place as 81 percent are avid users. Meanwhile, 73.6 percent look for news, 72.4 percent use search engines and 56.5 percent use internet for checking their emails.

Most Chinese online users access the internet through internet cafes, although home or business internet use is also steadily growing, CNNIC reported.

The survey did not reveal its sample size nor what qualifies an internet user. CNNIC only said the people surveyed used the internet at least once in the month before participating in the survey.