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Website executives discuss China's internet growth
Updated: 2006-02-28 17:23

The 3rd plenary meeting of China's Internet News and Information Service Committee was held over the weekend in China's southernmost Hainan Province.

During the session hosted by Huang Cheng, general secretary of the China Internet Association, officials from China's major internet portals such as Sina, Sohu, Netease and China.com and internet experts held a seminar focusing on the development and management of the country's Internet industry. The following are abstracts of participants' speeches:

Wu Yun (COO of Tom.com): China's Internet growth has been eye-catching in recent years. The Chinese mainland has 111 million netizens, an increase of 17 million over that of 2004. The number of broadband users in the mainland grew 21.5 million in 2005 to top 64.3 million, surpassing the number of narrowband users.

Currently, Chinese netizens spend an average of 15.7 hours online every week, a 20-percent growth over 2004. The data are solid evidence of the continuous rapid growth of China's Internet industry.

In recent years, Chinese Internet companies have been flocking to seek Nasdaq IPOs, from the early birds like Sina, Sohu, Netease, and China.com to the recent Tom Online, CTrip, Shanda, and Baidu, reflecting investors' confidence in the performances of the country's Internet companies as well as the nation's Internet market.

Moreover, the online population only makes up 8.5 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people, indicating a large room for further development and a huge market potential.

Guo Qinglin (director of government public relations with Sohu): I joined Sohu in 1997 and have witnessed the company's decade-long growth from a small company with an asset of US$200,000 and a dozen employees to a colossus business employing more than 1,000 people and gaining over US$100 million annually.

So to speak, I am a witness to Sohu's growth as well as that of China's Internet industry over the decade. I have participated in almost every research work concerning the Internet and also helped in the promulgation of "Management and Regulations on Internet News and Information Service," which was jointly released by the Information Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Information Industry in 2005.

It should be noted that quite a number of people from Sohu participated in the research work for the above rule's creation. Some of our suggestions were adopted. It is proper to say that Chinese Internet companies are involved in the drafting of all of China's Internet laws and regulations.

Self-discipline is crucial to Internet management as laws and regulations can only serve as the last resort. Internet companies should, out of a sense of responsibility, get rid of illegal and harmful information. Among China's online population, a large number are teenagers and children. As a father myself, I will not let any obscene and pornographic content poison kids and ruin their future.

Wang Xiaohui (CEO of China.com): Although China is a developing country, its Internet industry has already been in a leading position in the rapidly developing world for nearly a decade. This can be attributed not only to the good international cooperation environment, a group of executives and experts who understand the business, but also largely to the nation's overall speedy economic development and the government's support to the industry.

Recently, certain Western media and some US lawmakers have accused China of controlling the Internet. I think the accusations are completely unfounded. They know nothing about the development and management of China's Internet industry and relevant laws. In a word, they are ignorant of China's Internet development environment.

Internet management should be based on each country's own conditions. China's Internet management facilitates the industry's development because it conforms to the current condition of Internet development in the nation, as well as the country's basic situation.

China and the US have many differences, in social system, culture, value, and so on. Therefore, it is unfair for one country to use its own standard to judge another country's behavior. The fact that a number of overseas companies invest in China's Internet industry proves that the market is attractive.

China's Internet development also provides potential business opportunities for the US. Top Chinese portals, such as China.com, Sina.com, and Sohu.com, have listed on Nasdaq. American individual shareholders and institutional investors might be grateful that the Chinese has provided them with valuable investment options.

Wang Yan (CEO of Sina.com): Recently, some overseas media have condemned China's web management. In my opinion, they made the remarks on economic considerations. For example, some US lawmakers proposed to punish some Chinese Internet companies listed in the US stock market, accusing them of "assisting" the Chinese Government in limiting Internet freedom.

This is unfair for the listed Chinese companies.

As for "assisting" the government, we also have provided personal information in the United States when the FBI required it. In our opinion, it is natural in every country to provide personal information in accordance with laws and regulations. If China forms regulations and punishes us for "assisting the FBI," the Internet market is out of order.

Some of my French friends asked me whether China seriously controlled the Internet. I told them that without support and encouragement from the Chinese Government, it would be impossible for the Chinese IT and Internet companies to be listed in the US market at a total value of over US$10 billion.

Li Yong (vice president of Netease.com): China's Internet media, though flourishing, is still at the ascend stage, and it is true that there is a tendency of pursuing a great volume of page views. Websites should not focus only on the evaluation criterion of page views, but also should be responsible for web visitors. Influential websites must have a sense of social responsibility, have self-discipline, and impede the spread of illegal information according to laws and regulations.

He Hongxia (director of corporate communication of Baidu.com): China regulates the Internet within the framework of law. This management is not "control," but rather is to help regulate the development of the Internet through the means of law, government supervision, self-discipline, and technical support.

This management mode was developed in the process of practice. It borrows common international practices on Internet management and takes into account the needs for Internet development, and best suits the stage of Internet development in China. And this management has been proven a success by the healthy and orderly development of China's Internet industry.

Moreover, the management mode has also won wide recognition and voluntary cooperation from China's Internet enterprises.

Baidu has realized in its development in the past few years: Every Internet enterprise in China is duty-bound and obligated to abide by relevant laws and regulations, to respect China's national conditions, cultural traditions, and moral norms, and to understand and respect the needs of the majority of the Chinese netizen population. This also conforms to the needs of realizing the enterprise's long-term interest and development.

Min Dahong (director of the Internet and Digital Media Institute, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences): The fast development and popularity of China's Internet industry are due to the favorable environment of China's reform and opening-up policies. The government and the Internet industry have always considered the "positive development" as the priority.

Here are some facts: Since the official hooking up to the Internet in 1994, China has been in step with the world in terms of all new technologies, applications, functions, and shapes related to the Internet; ASP, ICP or SP (service function provider as search engine) are all operating in the market environment, have equal competition opportunities, and bring their innovation ability to the maximum.

Chinese citizens, through different methods and at different places (office, home, and cyber caf¨¦), log on to the Internet freely and conveniently. The netizens, more than 100 million in China, could get information from the Internet to satisfy their needs in their work, study, daily life, entertainment, and communication. Under the precondition that it does not break the law or infringes upon others' rights, all netizens are free to express their views, through ways such as using BBS and Bokee. These facts manifest China's social progress, and also show China's confidence in the use and popularity of the Internet.

Ma Weigong (chief editor of CIR Online): China's galloping Internet growth has been eye-catching and generally in good order. After 11 years of market competition, the existing websites are operating in accordance with the laws and regulations.

We are emphasizing legislation, but as the last resort. As a nation ruled by law, China must accelerate the legislation process on the Internet to meet the needs of the industry's continued rapid development.

Fang Xingdong (CEO of Blogcn):We must evaluate China's Internet development in an objective and logical way. Let's take a look at the development of blogging in China. Blogcn started to expand its Internet blog business in 2002, four or five years after their counterparts in the United States.

However, after three years of development, the number of bloggers in China has topped 20 million.

It is expected that the number will be doubled or tripled in 2006. Thus, China already leads the world in terms of the growth rate of blogs. It will be very likely that the number of bloggers in China would surpass that of the US in a shorter time than that it will take China to top the US in terms of online population.

The healthy, orderly and rapid growth of China's blogging is not only an example of the nation's Internet development, but also a powerful evidence of China's good environment for Internet development.

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