They might not be able to read everything on the internet, and nothing on events in Tiananmen Square circa 1989, but the number of Chinese logging on is growing fast enough to overtake the US pretty quickly.

Maybe Google should stay in China after all...

The number of Chinese internet users reached a whopping 123 million at the end of last month, with two-thirds of them using broadband connections, according to the CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center).

This is an increase of nearly 20 percent over the same period last year.

The number of users with broadband internet connections grew by a staggering 45.3 percent over the past year. At the end of June, 77 million internet users logged on with broadband internet connections, CNNIC said, noting this represents two-thirds of the country's internet population.

By comparison, CNNIC reported that just over half of Chinese internet users had broadband access at the end of 2005.

China boasts the world's second-largest internet population, behind the US. However, less than 10 percent of the country's 1.3 billion population has internet access, leaving plenty of room for continued growth. With more Chinese internet users than the US in the near future, what does that say about the net's fabled freedom of speech?