Image: Google headquarters
Vincent Thian  /  AP
A Google user presents flowers in front of Google sign outside Google China headquarters building in Beijing, Friday, Jan. 15, 2010. China tried Friday to keep its censorship row with Google from damaging business confidence or ties with Washington, promising good conditions for foreign investors but giving no sign it might relax Internet controls.
updated 1/15/2010 12:06:46 PM ET 2010-01-15T17:06:46

China's population of Internet users, already the world's largest, soared nearly 30 percent last year to 384 million as the number of people surfing the Web by mobile phone more than doubled, a research group reported Friday.

The 28.9 percent growth rate was below 2008's eye-popping 41 percent but still among the world's highest despite government controls highlighted by this week's dispute with Google Inc. over Internet censorship.

The number of people going online by mobile phone rose 106 percent to 233 million, spurred by the launch of third-generation services that support video and other Web products, said the government-sanctioned China Internet Network Information Center. China's population is more than 1.3 billion.

It said 8 percent of Web surfers use only mobile phones to go online.

China's government aggressively promotes Internet use for business and education but tries to block access to material deemed subversive or pornographic. Google caused an outcry among Chinese Internet users when it announced this week it might pull out of China over censorship and e-mail hacking.

Online commerce in 2009 totaled 250 billion yuan ($37 billion), CNNIC said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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