The Chinese government has joined an international anti-spam effort started by the UK and US.

As the world's second-biggest source of unsolicited e-mail, the decision is hugely significant and comes ater months of discussion between UK and Chinese government officials. "We have long been keen to engage with China on the issue of spam," said Alun Michael, the UK's e-commerce minister.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), up to 20 percent of all spam originates in China where computers and servers are often used by spammers outside China without the users' knowledge.

The London Action Plan, which was launched in October 2004, calls for increased investigative training, the establishment of points of contact between government authorities, and the creation of an international working group to co-ordinate the enforcement of anti-spam regulations. The initiative was intended to expand on international anti-spam efforts led by organisations such as the OECD.

China's representative to the plan will be Union Network Beijing, a group that was created to help enforce anti-spam regulations and fight the spread of computer viruses.

China is not new to the fight against spam. In recent years, the Chinese government and industry, including the government-backed Internet Society of China, have stepped up efforts to crack down on spam and spammers.

The DTI said the London Action Plan has already made progress, citing a February operation that involved government agencies and companies in 30 countries which analysed 300,000 spam e-mails and resulted in 300 cross-border anti-spam investigations.