July 22, 2008

The Chinese Celebrate Their Roaring Economy, As They Struggle With Its Costs

Chapter 6. Technology Use

More than one-third of those surveyed in China report owning a computer (36%) and using the internet (38%) at least occasionally. One-quarter (25%) report sending email at least occasionally.4

Computer ownership remained steady between 2007 (37%) and 2008 (36%) after increasing from 2002 (28%). Reported internet and email usage patterns also changed little since 2007. The Chinese are slightly more likely to use the internet occasionally now (38%) than they were in 2007 (34%), and are equally likely to send email at least infrequently (25% in 2008 vs. 24% in 2007).

According to 2007 Pew data, China is in the middle of the global information technology owning and using pack – China ranked 20th of 47 countries on computer ownership, 25th on internet usage and 30th on email usage.

Technology Owners and Users

Chinese technology users look a great deal alike. First, they tend to be young. Chinese ages 18-29 (48%) are somewhat more likely than are those ages 30-39 (36%) or 40-49 (35%) and nearly twice as likely as those 50 or older (26%) to own a computer. Young Chinese are also twice as likely or more to use the internet and send email as are those 30 years old or older.

Second, as expected, computer users tend to be more educated. Those who have a college or high school education are far more likely than those with less education to own a computer and use computer technology.

Third, they tend to be wealthier. Those with a high income are more likely to own a computer and use the internet and email than those who earn less.

Fourth, tech-savvy Chinese are inclined to reside in urban environments. Chinese who live in the cities are more likely than those living in rural places to own a computer (56% vs. 8%) and use the internet (51% vs. 14%) and email (36% vs. 6%).

Not surprisingly, computer ownership also plays a role in technology use. Those who own a computer are much more likely to use the internet (77%) and send e-mail (54%) than those who do not own a computer (16% use Internet, 9% send email).

A Gender Divide

Overall, gender plays a very limited role in computer ownership and internet use. Men are only slightly more likely to access the internet than are women (40% vs. 36%), and are about equally likely to own a computer (36% vs. 35%) and send email (26% vs. 23%).

However, young men are particularly likely to use information technology. Over eight-in-ten (82%) men ages 18-29 use the internet while 73% of women in the same age group do. In addition, while 62% of young men (18-29) report sending email at least occasionally, only 54% of young women do. But younger women (ages 18-29) are about equally likely to own a computer as are young men (47% vs. 50%).

  1. As noted previously, the poll’s sample in China is disproportionately urban, and given that the use of information technology is much more common in urban areas, these percentages would in all likelihood be significantly lower if the sample were nationally representative.