Internet usage in China has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. In 1997, there were 300,000 computers and 620,000 users for services offered over the Internet.Statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center and forecasts from Celent LLC, a Boston-based research and advisory firm, show there are 49.5 million computers and 111 million people in mainland China who access the Internet. The online environment in China is also gradually improving. There are now 22.4 million computers in China that access the Internet via broadband access, representing 45% of computers that access the Internet, according to a recent Celent report, titled "Insurance E-Business Trends in China."

In addition, Internet usage has changed the way the Chinese people live and the way companies operate.

According to Analysis International, Beijing, the total transaction volume through e-commerce in China in 2004 was $54.5 billion (U.S.), increasing to $76.8 billion (U.S.) in 2005. What's more, the proportion of frequent Internet shoppers in China has reached 24.5% and 14.1% of those users frequently use online financial services such as online banking.

Is there an online opportunity for insurers in the Chinese market?

Revenue from property insurance in China will continue to grow at a rate of 25% over the next few years, according to Celent research, and revenue from life insurance will grow at 10% annually.

Of that total premium revenue, Celent predicts 2% of it could result from from direct online sales by 2009, amounting to $2.1 billion (U.S.).

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