ICANN is opening its first new global engagement office in Beijing, China, announced president and chief executive officer Fadi Chehadé of the Internet governing body today.

"Engagement with China is not merely an option, we simply must engage at every level or we will lose our legitimacy," said Chehadé during the welcoming session at ICANN's 46th public meeting in Beijing. "This is part of our effort to embrace the world."

The Beijing meeting is the largest meeting in the 15-year history of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, according to a press statement by ICANN. More than 2,100 people have so far show up for the Beijing conference. ICANN's public meeting in Beijing will continue through the week.

"We've never seen anything like it," said Nick Tomasso, ICANN's senior director of Meetings. "Last year 1,821 showed up for our meeting in Prague in the Czech Republic which, until now, was our largest meeting. That record has now been broken and people are still arriving."

Chinese leaders have welcomed the announcement of ICANN's expanding presence in their country. "Our Internet future will now be brilliant," said Madam Hu Qiheng, the president of the Internet Society of China. "This is a bridge for ICANN and China and it will lead to greater expansion of Internet development."

ICANN Board Chair Dr. Stephen Crocker pointed out the dramatic growth of Internet users in China in the past decade.

"In the past decade, Internet use has increased tenfold," said Crocker. "There are now 564 million Internet users in China and that is expected to climb sharply in the future."