This year Asia will expand to over half of a billion internet users and China will surpass North American for the number of internet users. This will make China the world leader for internet penetration.
There have been a number of factors that have facilitated China's leapfrog over North America as the highest rate of internet penetration and greater degree of acceptance in daily life. These are both economic and political in nature.
1. Economic rise of the middle class in China has greatly accelerated the internet culture. New money buys new things. A sudden rise in disposable income allows for purchases of goods that only a short time ago where not available or affordable. Whereas the West has been spoiled for choice for a long time and therefore people wait to "trade up" their appliances. The Chinese are buying for the first time, and they are buying cutting edge and embracing it fully.
2. Freedom of communication and sharing of ideas. The internet and mobile devices have provided modern Chinese a level of freedom in sharing ideas and communicating with others that has long been taken for granted in the west.
3. Weak infrastructure actually facilitates the growth of internet and mobile communication. Wireless commications -- mobile phones -- can be quickly installed at a relatively low cost compared to dedicated land lines. Therefore a in country that rapidly demands modern conveniences; a mobile phone is more likely to be available than a wired phone in the home. As an extension to this, Internet cafe's have gained strong cultural and social promenance by providing services that may not yet be available otherwise.
With 80% of Chinese internet users stating that it is an important part of their daily lives we can be asured that the rise of consumerism in China will quickly overshadow Western Countries. What is most interesting to watch is how this is approached. China is not the West and any attempt to treat it as such will most likely meet with disapointing outcomes.