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On an Average Day

Beijing photographer Xiaming caught this text-message-focused teen in Sanlitun Park.

Nimble thumbs -- text messaging boom in China

By Pou In Kuan

ON AN AVERAGE DAY IN CHINA, 1.2 billion text messages were sent. According to the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry, over 429.67 billion cellular text messages were sent in 2006.

The rapid and widespread adoption of cell phones by Chinese is, of course, critical to the popularity of cellular text messaging. In 2006, 67.68 million new cell phones users were registered in China. By the end of the year, 461 million Chinese, some 35% of the population, were using cell phones.

According to China Daily, Chinese cell phone users pounded out 15 billion text messages to greet others during the one-week Chinese New Year Festival holidays in February 2007.

In addition, some Chinese have turned text messaging into paying jobs, sometimes well-paying jobs. A People's Daily article tells of some who produce text messages to be downloaded from websites. These professional message writers earned more than US$1,280 in one week during the New Year holiday.

It's not surprising that any medium as popular as this one has caught the government's attention. People’s Daily states that a court in the city of Nanjing court has started providing court information to those requesting it via text messaging.

In addition, in 2005, when many anti-Japanese protests were held around China, the Shanghai municipal government sought to end the protests by sending out messages saying, “We ask people to express their patriotic passion through the right channels, following the law and maintaining order.”

Text messaging is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, but still lags behind China and most other nations. According to a January 2007 survey conducted by M:Metrics, only 39% of U.S. cell phone users send text messages in any given month. 


China Daily, “Chinese send 15b messages during Spring Festival,” Feb. 28, 2007: <>, accessed June 20, 2007.

China Daily, “SMS writers make much in holiday,” Feb. 24, 2007: <>, accessed June 21, 2007,

M:Metrics, "Mobile music usage is climbing, but not all musicphones are created equal, March 21, 2007: <>.

People’s Daily, “Chinese court sends trial information by text message,” Oct. 24, 2006 : <>, accessed June 20, 2007.

People's Republic of China Ministry of Information Industry, “2006 年全国通信业发展统计公报, (2006 Annual Statistical Report on the Development of the National Telecommunications Industry"), Feb. 9, 2007: <>, accessed June 19, 2007.

Pou In Kuan is a USCI intern. She is Journalism student from Washington State University. She plans to write for magazines and online outlets.

Our "on an average day" feature is intended to use a variety of statistics to illuminate developments in contemporary China. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please send them to us via our contact page (please include "average" in the subject line).

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