Beijing: The number of people using the internet in China has galloped to 668 million – and most use their mobile phones for access – the authorities said.
The number of Internet users in China continued to grow in the first half of this year, with about 90 per cent of the users accessing the internet through mobile phones, said the semi-annual report of the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).
Global Times cited the report as saying that there were a total of 668 million online users in China by the end of June, an increase of 19 million in the past six months.
Among the users, 27.9 percent or 186 million are rural residents, an increase of 8 million. Most of the online users are aged between 20 and 29 and are mainly students and freelancers.
The report said that about 90 percent of the users access the Internet through mobile phones, 68 percent access through desktops and about 43 percent use laptops.
The popularity of smartphones has gone up due to a fall in prices, making them more affordable, said the report which added that the growth of apps useful in daily lives also contributed to attract online users.
The report also said that following a boom in the stock market, the number of people using mobile apps to trade shares rose by 50 percent in the first half of this year to 5.6 million.
Chinese police have investigated 380 online lenders and frozen $1.5 billion in assets following an avalanche of scandals in the huge but lightly regulated industry, the government announced Monday.
Beijing allowed a private finance industry to flourish in order to supply credit to entrepreneurs and households that aren’t served by the state-run banking system. But that threatens to become a liability for the ruling Communist Party after bankruptcies and fraud cases prompted protests and complaints of official indifference to small investors.
The police ministry said it launched the investigation because person-to-person, or P2P, lending was increasingly risky and rife with complaints about fraud, mismanagement and waste.
The ministry gave no details of arrests but said more than 100 executives were being sought by investigators and some had fled abroad. It said authorities seized or froze 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) but gave no indication how much might be returned to depositors.
Police say some lenders and investment vehicles were brazenly fraudulent, while others collapsed after inexperienced founders failed to manage risk.
Monday’s statement said P2P lenders were investigated for complaints including wasting money, reporting phony investment plans and using illegal tactics to raise money.
Lending through online platforms grew by triple digits annually until 2017 when regulators tightened controls.
Depositors lent 1.9 trillion yuan ($280 billion) last year, but that was down by 50 percent from 2017, according to the Shenzhen Qiancheng Internet Finance Research Institute.
The outstanding loan balance stood at 1.2 trillion yuan ($177 billion) at the end of 2018, down 25 percent from a year earlier, according to Diyi Wangdai, a web site that reports on the industry.
P2P lenders are part of a privately run Chinese finance industry the national bank regulator estimated in 2015 had grown to $1.5 trillion.
The internet has helped financial platforms attract money from financial novices with little knowledge of the risks involved.
Many lend to factories and retailers or invest in restaurants, car washes and other businesses. But inexperience and poor risk control means a downturn in business conditions can bankrupt them.