China added a mere 14.4 million new users to the Internet over the first six months of 2014, the lowest Internet growth over a half-year span in eight years, the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center reports.
Internet growth has been so slow in the rural areas of China that an estimated 450 million people never go online at all. Many rural-dwelling Chinese are poor farmers with little or no education and thus have no need to communicate or conduct research online. The CNNIC recommended that, to boost online participation, rural schools increase their focus on Internet skills and computer education.
While total Internet penetration in China is currently at 46.9 percent compared to 87 percent in the U.S., China still has far more Internet users. The 632 million users who logged on in June are double the entire U.S. population of 314 million, making it the most connected society in the world in raw numbers, according to PC World.
Of those 632 million users, 527 million went online with phones and mobile devices, which have overtaken desktop PCs as the most popular way to connect. The CNNIC report also found a declining number of social media users, with a lack of social media innovation and allegations of rampant surveillance by the government possibly to blame for the 7.4 percent drop to 257 million users over the first half of this year. Online messaging, search engines and news were the country’s most popular sites, PC World reported.