China’s Internet a Portal to the World’s Largest “Casino”

Over 56 million Chinese trading stocks online

Christopher Aston , May 12, 2016 9:12am (updated)

Netease news reported a story yesterday on the 36th China Internet Development Statistics Report published by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC)*:

By June 2015, China had 668 million internet users, 48.8 percent of the population, with 18.94 million new users joining the grid in the first half of this year.

The impact of the internet on peoples lives is evolving, from a means of obtaining information and entertainment, the internet now enriches peoples lives with internet services in healthcare, education, transport, etc. In the future, cloud computing, the internet of things and big data will drive progress in agriculture, modern manufacturing and production services.”

China ranks number one in the world for internet users, operating within the Great Firewall of China (GFW), creating the world’s largest ‘intranet’. But with an internet penetration rate of less than half of the population, on par with Mexico, it still lags behind developed countries such as the United Kingdom with 89.80 percent penetration.

“594 million net users, 88.9 percent of the total, access the internet via mobile phones. Along with increasing phone screen sizes, and improvements in the user experience, the trend of the mobile phone as the main internet access point is increasingly prominent. The data shows there are now 186 million rural internet users.”

This ‘leap-frog’ effect of Chinese net users jumping straight to smartphones, skipping the need for a PC in the home, has lowered the barriers for knowledge accumulation, and can help reduce regional or wealth disparities. It’s no coincidence that Chinese companies such as Shenzhen-based Tencent now design mobile phone applications that surpass overseas offerings.

“In the first half of 2015, internet finance applications have developed closely with changes in the financial markets. There has been a sharp increase in the number of internet users trading shares, by end of June 2015 reaching 56.28 million, an increase of 47.4 percent year-on-year.”

The role of technology in China’s stock mania and the explosion in shadow banking services cannot be understated. New services make it easier to invest, share information, and bypass backward state players, attracting strong policy support from Beijing for net finance services.

As well as control: Half the population surfing a tightly policed internet, with one in ten of these trading shares on a stockmarket now being manipulated by the regulators. Was this part of the vision in Silicon Valley or for China’s accession to the WTO?


For more on China’s real economy, check out chiecon.

*CNNIC is the official acronym, not CINIC, as the English logo is designed such that the characters ‘NN’ are drawn together to represent the Chinese character 互 which is used in the Chinese word for internet.

Christopher Aston

Translating trends in China's real economy.