The country had 210 million internet users at the end of 2007, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a government-sponsored body which gathers data on internet use.
The US had almost 216 million internet users by the end of 2007, according to research firm Nielsen//NetRatings.
"The CNNIC expects that China's online population will become the world's largest in early 2008," the CNNIC said in a statement today.
"Despite growth in the number of internet users bringing an increase in internet penetration to 16 percent, this is still below the global average of 19.1 percent."
In related news, China's online gaming population grew 23 percent last year and is expected to exceed 84 million by 2012.
More than 40 million people play online games in the country, 22.36 million of whom are described as 'regular subscribers', according to a survey by IDC and the Publishers Association of China.
China's online games market is estimated to have generated US$1.45 billion in revenues during 2007, according to a year-end report from Beijing-based CCID Consulting.
The figure represented a year-on-year increase of 74.6 percent, considerably outpacing the 23 percent growth reported by IDC for the same period.
The Publishers Association of China and IDC also reported that foreign revenue earned by Chinese online games developers leapt 175 percent year on year to reach US$56 million in 2007.
China heads for world's largest online population
By Simon Burns on Jan 18, 2008 7:12AM