Fortunately, being in the same timezone (plus a couple of hours) as Beijing, I had no worries the other week with jetlag. But I did feel somewhat dizzy after hearing some of the numbers being tossed around about Internet usage in China, numbers of blogs, page views, comments on blogs, instant messaging and online gaming.

All of which are BIG.

Admittedly, I learnt in the course of the ad:tech Beijing event that statistics about online usage in China need to be taken with a large grain of salt. The figures are nevertheless impressive – did someone say mind-blowing?

Martin Lau, President of Tencent, set the pace in his keynote address on “The Realities of Online Communities in China”. His company has a market capitalization of US$11.44bn, which they boast is two times more than the total market value of competitors Sina, Sohu and NetEase. Tencent’s QQ, “China’s No. 1 Instant Messenger” claims 86.9% market share in instant messaging, with 500 million Registered Accounts, 270 million Active Users, 80 million Daily Unique Users and 21 million Peak Concurrent Users.

With its Qzone brand, Tencent also claims to have China’s “No. 1 Blog Community”.

However, I got the distinct impression from my fellow panelist Jason Ge, General Manager, Marketing for Sina, that his company would claim preeminence in the blog stakes. I may have misunderstood, but a Sina brochure I was given has a graph headed “Blog” and showing Sina with around a 33% reach and Qzone with about 20% (and MSN with less than 2%). For the SINA Blog platform, the company brochure claims daily page views over 100 million and total registered users over 10 million.

Debbie Weil, who was also at ad:tech Beijing and another fellow panelist of mine, was also astonished at the figures she was being quoted, for example about Internet users – 172 million – and numbers of bloggers at 30 million. Although a slide I saw in one session, with figures sourced to eMarketer.com, offered a much lower figure of 119.5 million Internet users, second only to the USA at 197.8 million, but with a vey rapid growth rate.

I’m still kicking myself that, having scribbled furiously in several sessions so as to capture various stats, I then left my notebook somewhere in Beijing, probably at the conference venue. So it was great to find that Thomas Crampton had captured some interesting figures, for instance from the fascinating presentation by William Bao Bean at the opening of the conference, showing that China’s young Internet users interact more online than their US counterparts – see Thomas’s post for the figures.

Reftlecting some comments I heard at ad:tech, Thomas mentions elsewhere that “current and reliable stats on Internet traffic in China do not exist” (note the gap in the figures cited above on Internet usage – there is a big difference between 172 million and 119 million). Drawing on some unattributable comments from people at the ad:tech event he lists some suggestions as to why the stats are not reliable.

However, from some of the discussions I had, I formed the impression that there are some signs of progress in terms of Chinese companies wanting to have more accurate metrics. And I met some people, such as Australian expat and mathematician Dr Mathew McDougall, CEO of Beijing-headquartered sinotechmedia, who are already providing that service.

My hunch is that, as ad buyers become more aware of the potential to use their money more effectively through better metrics, they will demand greater precision. And no doubt all the parties concerned will work through the political implications of the process in their own way.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).