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LA Times: According to the government-run China Internet Network Information Center, the number of people using the Web in that country hit 513 million in December. That's a 12 percent increase over the year before. In addition, the number of Chinese people using microblog services similar to Twitter quadrupled in 2011 to reach nearly 250 million.
Observers say that the growth of Internet users has made it more possible for individuals to stand up to the communist government. "Today we can say without hesitation that an independent and richly participatory civil society is emerging on China's Internet," wrote journalist Hu Yong. "The Internet cannot usher in dramatic change to political life in China, but it can promote the creation of social capital on the basis of citizen rights and duties, giving rise to and strengthening social forces independent of the Chinese state."