By Khurram Aziz email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Jan 15, 2013 12:14 PM EST
China's Internet population reached 564 million at the end of December, an increase of 50.9 million over the past 12 months, according to a non-profit research group in the country.
China Internet Network Information Centre said the surge was largelly due to users accessing the Web on smartphones, which, alongside tablets, rose 18.1% last year to 420 million.
The news was first reported by TechWeb which said that the number of people in China accessing the internet on desktop PCs dropped three percent over 2012, to 70.6%.
The shortfall was more than made up by users coming online through their mobile devices, which increased from 69.3% in 2011 to 74.5%.
This increase in Internet users has led to the growth of online shopping, which increased by 24.8% to reach 242 million over 2012, as well as micro-blogging, with the number of bloggers rising 58.73 million to 309 million, the report said.
This growth has come in the face of tightening government control over the internet. In December it was reported that Communist Party leaders were strengthening the "Great Firewall of China" which prevents its citizens from accessing some international Web sites.
In particular, new measures were put in place which detect and disrupt Virtual Private Networks - or an encrypted network between a computer inside China and one outside it. This makes it even more difficult for Chinese Internet users to circumvent the Great Firewall and get access to sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and several newspapers which are blocked in China.