updated 7/16/2009 11:07:54 AM ET 2009-07-16T15:07:54

More people now go online in China than there are people in the United States.

The country's rapid economic growth and expansion of Internet access in more areas has fueled a sharp increase in Internet users, totaling 338 million by the end of June, a government-sanctioned research group said Thursday.

That is a 13.4 percent jump since the end of 2008, the China Internet Network Information Center said in a report.

The latest U.S. Census Bureau's figure says the population of the United States is just under 307 million. China's population is more than 1.3 billion.

China's population of Internet users has been growing at explosive rates despite government efforts to block access to material deemed subversive or pornographic.

But Internet penetration is still only 25.5 percent, the center said. The Pew Internet and American Life Project places U.S. online penetration at more than 70 percent.

Internet use on mobile phones has increased 32.1 percent since the beginning of the year to 155 million led by rising use by rural dwellers, the report said.

China this year rolled out its third-generation mobile phone service — which supports wireless Web surfing — which is expected to set off a new surge in Internet use.

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