The number of China’s internet users going online with a mobile device had overtaken those doing so with a personal computer (PC) for the first time, the official China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) said yesterday.

China’s total number of internet users crept up 2.3 percent to 632 million by the end of last month, from 618 million at the end of last year, CNNIC’s internet development statistics report said. Of those, 527 million – or 83 percent – logged on using a mobile device, while 81 percent of users went online with a PC.

China is the largest smartphone market, and by 2018 is likely to account for almost a third of the expected 1.8 billion smartphones shipped that year, according to data firm IDC.

The increase in internet users was mainly driven by mobile, which grew 5.4 percent from the 500 million users at the end of last year. The number of mobile shoppers surged 42 percent from December through June.

Chinese e-commerce is dominated by Alibaba Group, which is preparing for a mammoth initial public offering widely expected to take place in September.

Alibaba’s biggest competitor is, which specialises in business-to-customer e-commerce in a similar vein to, and is 17.6 percent owned by Alibaba arch-rival Tencent Holdings.

The fastest growing services were mobile payment, where users shot up 63.4 percent, online banking with a 56.4 percent rise and mobile travel booking, which was up 65.4 percent.

Other online mobile services with rapid growth from the end of last year included music, video, gaming, search and group-buying, all of which experienced double-digit rises.

But not all internet activity saw growth. Users of microblogs, such as Tencent’s Weibo, fell for a second six-month period, by 1.9 percent to 275 million. They numbered 331 million at the end of June last year before the government started clamping down in September on “online rumours”, which it said threatened social stability. – Reuters