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Backgrounder: 20 years of the Internet in China

BEIJING, April 19 (Xinhua) -- China officially gained access to the Internet on April 20, 1994. Over the past two decades, the Internet has brought profound changes to people's lives and become a powerful driving force behind China's economy.

Here is a timeline of major developments of the Internet in China:

-- In April 1994, China achieves a fully functional connection to the Internet, becoming the 77th country to access the Internet.

-- In January 1995, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications starts to provide Internet services to the public. In May, China's first Internet service provider, Yinghaiwei, is founded in Beijing.

-- In November 1996, the country's first Internet cafe opens in Beijing.

-- In April 1997, a landmark work plan on informatization makes the development of the Internet a task for the country's information infrastructure construction.

-- In March 1998, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Electronics Industry merge into the Ministry of Information Industry. In August, the Ministry of Public Security sets up an administration to oversee computer network safety and crack down on online crimes.

-- In January 1999, a massive "e-government campaign" spurs development of government websites. In July, Chinadotcom Corporation becomes the first Chinese Internet company listed on Nasdaq in the United States.

-- From April to July in 2000, China's three major web portals -- Sina, Netease and Sohu -- go public on Nasdaq. In October, the country's Tenth Five-Year Plan puts forward a strategy of using informatization to propel industrialization.

-- In May 2001, the Internet Society of China is established. In December, China's 10 major backbone networks sign interconnection agreements to facilitate cross-regional traffic on the Internet.

-- In November 2002, the First China Internet Conference is held by the Internet Society of China in Shanghai.

-- In November 2003, the General Administration of Sport recognizes electronic sports as a formal sport.

-- Since March 2004, a spate of Chinese Internet companies launch IPOs abroad. In July, the government launches a nationwide crackdown on Internet pornography.

-- In August 2005, China's largest Web search company, Baidu, goes public on Nasdaq, boasting the biggest daily gain by a newcomer to the market in five years. Blogging becomes popular during the year.

-- In January 2006, the website of China's central government officially launches. In July, the Regulation on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information takes effect, aimed at fighting online piracy.

-- In June 2007, China issues the first e-commerce development scheme.

-- In May 2008, Chinese social networking sites, such as Kaixin and Xiaonei, begin to proliferate. By June, the number of Chinese netizens hits 253 million, overtaking the United States as home to the world's most Internet users.

-- In January 2009, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issues 3G licenses to three major telecom operators -- China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. In the second half of the year, some Chinese web portals start testing or launching microblogging services.

-- In January 2010, the State Council vows to push forward the ambitious convergence of television, Internet and telecom services through pilot projects.

-- In May 2011, the People's Bank of China issues the first batch of third-party payment licenses. In November, the National Development and Reform Commission announces it is investigating China Telecom and China Unicom for allegedly monopolizing Internet broadband services, the first anti-monopoly case involving large enterprises since China implemented its first anti-monopoly law in 2008.

-- In February 2012, the MIIT releases a five-year development plan on the Internet of Things, detailing goals for research and application in the field. In December, a regulation on the protection of personal information online is approved by top lawmakers, requiring Internet users to give real names to service providers.

-- In June 2013, Alipay, China's largest third-party payment provider,launches its online finance product, Yu'ebao, leading to the explosive growth of Internet finance. In December, the MIIT issues 4G licenses to the three major telecom operators. By the end of December, the number of Chinese netizens reaches 618 million.

-- In February 2014, President Xi Jinping heads the central Internet security and informatization leading group.

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