This Is How Facebook's 87 Million Users In China Have Done An End-Run Around The Government Ban

Nearly 87 million Internet users from mainland China use Facebook, accounting for 8% of Facebook’s entire global user base, according to an ongoing multi-year survey by Global Web Index. This is despite the Chinese government’s ban on Facebook that dates to 2009.

Facebook’s official estimate (according to its advertising tool) pins its user base in China at 680,000. But these survey results reveal Facebook’s number to be an extremely conservative estimate, at best.

China’s Communist Party banned Facebook in 2009 (following riots in Xinjiang), when less than 8 million Chinese Internet users were on the social network. But Chinese social media users displayed considerable creativity in getting around the ban, often relying on privacy hacks, such as proxy servers which help keep the computer user anonymous.

In the fourteen months following the ban, Facebook’s Chinese user base grew by 178%. Two years after the ban, Facebook’s user base in China surpassed 50 million people.

Facebook user adoption in China has since slowed, growing 45% between the second quarter of 2012 and the same quarter in 2013. However, we expect growth to reaccelerate as China’s government is now in the process of partially unblocking Facebook in parts of the country. For example, people living and working in Shanghai’s free-trade zone now have access to Facebook and Twitter.

Download the chart and data in Excel.

Here is a chart showing the most common methods Internet users in China rely on to access Facebook.

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