Digital Transformation

China’s online population reaches 731 million yet just under half are still not online


By Danielle Long | Asia Pacific Correspondent

January 24, 2017 | 3 min read

More than 731 million Chinese people accessed the internet in 2016, yet the country’s online penetration continues to lag at just 53.2%, according to new figures.

The statistics released this week by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reveal continued growth in China’s online market, which increased 6.2% or 43 million people in 2016.

The growth is being driven by mobile devices, which remain the primary access point for China’s online population. A staggering 95.1% of Chinese internet users or 695 million people access the internet through mobile devices.


Mobile devices are the primary access point for China’s online population.

Mobile payments remain popular with 67.5% of internet users paying for goods and services with mobile wallets and half of all Chinese internet users pay for goods in physical stores with their mobile devices.

WeChat is China's most popular app with almost 80% of the online population frequently using the app, followed by Tencent’s QQ, Alibaba’s Taobao, Baidu Inc’s mobile app, and Alipay, the payment app run by Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial.

The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.

Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.

Sign up

China already boasts the world’s largest online population, however, these latest figures demonstrate the huge growth potential within the market.

China’s internet penetration currently lags behind its Asia-Pacific neighbours, such as Japan and South Korea which report 91% and 86% penetration respectively.

China’s online population is expected to keep growing over the next five years with forecasts it will reach 1 billion in 2022.

Digital Transformation

More from Digital Transformation

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +