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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - When it comes to high-tech, China has it all. But in the country with the most Internet users in the world, some are choosing to stay in touch through an older device: the radio.
Armed with antennas, transmitters and receivers, a growing number of Chinese amateur radio operators, or radio hams, send out encoded messages and simple broadcasts in the hope of getting a response.
Of the world's three million amateur radio operators, up to 90,000 are in China, according to the Chinese Radio Sports Association which oversees licensing for hobbyists in the world's most populous country.
The number has been steadily growing in recent years, the association said, despite mobile phones and the Internet becoming commonplace in nearly all the country.
For members of the Beijing Sunny Radio Club, a perfect weekend means surfing the frequencies and talking to radio fanatics in other cities, or even other continents.
Wang Ranning, a 15-year-old student, has been an enthusiast for more than four years, and finds radio "charming."
"Your signals might reach the pyramid in Egypt, the Pentagon in America, go through California or any state and finally end up in a small family in the east of the United States," Wang said.
Further east, Liu Jinsheng, the first amateur radio operator in the coastal city of Qingdao, says he never takes the freedom, and sense of accomplishment, his hobby offers for granted.
"We were only allowed to communicate with the rest of the world's millions of radio fans after China opened up," he said.
"I can get hold of people from far away with just a simple antenna. It's different from using the Internet because you rely on other people."
With equipment starting from 200 yuan ($30), the hobby is accessible to many city dwellers in China.
While the number of Chinese radio enthusiasts may never come anywhere near the 340 million Internet users in the country, they are still reaching out to the far corners of the world.
"There are so many fans around the world who work on different frequencies every day and communicate with enthusiasts from everywhere," said Wang Yufei, a member of the Beijing Sunny Radio Club who has been addicted to radio since 1998.
"There are no geographic boundaries."
Editing by Miral Fahmy