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China's Internet users soar as mobile drives growth

China had 649 million people online at the end of 2014, up by 31 million people from a year earlier. Mobile Internet users grew by 57 million people.

The number of Internet users in China continues to skyrocket.

China added 31 million Internet users for a total of 649 million, the country's China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reported Tuesday, according to Reuters, which obtained a copy of the report. The country's total number of mobile Internet users jumped by 57 million to 557 million, CNNIC reported.

China's Internet growth over the last several years has been nothing short of staggering. The country adds tens of millions of people to the Web each year. But with a total population of over 1 billion, China still has a long way to go. China's Internet penetration rate at the end of 2014 was 47.9 percent. By contrast, more than 40 nations have at least a 70 percent penetration rate, according to an Internet Society report released last year.

International companies have of course been wise to the growth. Nearly every major technology company has eyed China as its next important market, with Apple going so far as to say that China is its second-most-important market behind the Americas.

For online companies, the addition of millions of more Web users offers an immense opportunity. Realizing that, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year went to China to try to make inroads in a market where his company and its photo-sharing service, Instagram, are blocked. Zuckerberg met with students at Tsinghua University last year and spoke entirely in Mandarin. He also spent his trip meeting with prominent Chinese companies, including Tencent and Taobao, to see how Facebook could partner with them on advertising.

A number of other chief executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, made trips to China last year to try to build relationships as well.