Beijing: One-third of China’s population were using the Internet at the end of 2010, taking the total number of people with net connections to 457 million, the China Internet Network Information Center has said.

Over one-third or 34.3 percent of China’s population were connected to the Internet at the end of last year, up 73.3 million from a year earlier, making them the largest net savvy population in the world, CNNIC said in a report.

Chinese netizens spent about 18.3 hours online every week or 2.61 hours each day, it said.

The growth of the net also propelled blogging in China with over 53.11 million bloggers using various Chinese social network sites even though most of the international networks like Facebook and Twitter remained banned in the country.

Microblogging has rapidly increased since and introduced their applications at end of 2009, said Huang Chengqing, vice chairman of the Internet Society of China (ISC), the country’s Internet watchdog.

The number of Internet users in China’s rural areas totalled 125 million last year, up 16.9 percent from the previous year, the report said.

The number of people shopping online climbed the most compared to other online services, up 48.6 per ent year on year, followed by people using e-banking and online payment services, up 48.2 percent and 45.8 per cent respectively., a Chinese-language website for online auctions and shopping founded by Alibaba Group, reported nearly 200 million registered members and more than $29.07 billion in turnover, creating at least 1 million online sales related jobs.

About 66.2 percent of Internet users, or 303 million, used mobile phones to surf the net, an increase of 5.4 percentage points from the previous year, CNNIC said in its report.

Though the growth speed of China’s mobile phone Internet users slowed last year, wireless Internet growth momentum was strong, China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou said.

The number of people going online via laptops grew at a faster pace than that of those surfing the net using mobile phones or desktops.

About 45.7 percent of netizens used laptops to surf the net, a year-on-year increase of 15 percentage points.

Despite progress, China’s Internet capability still faces challenges.

The average connection speed last year was relatively slow: a mere 100.9 Kbps (kilobytes per second), the report said.

The speed was about half of the global average of 212. 5 Kbps, according to figures from the US network giant Akamai in early 2010.

The survey was carried out among 60,000 individuals and 5,103 enterprises in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the Chinese mainland, as well as nearly 90,000 completed online questionnaires.