Last update at : Thu Apr 27 7:34:27 1995

Connecting China Education Community to the Global Internet - The China Education and Research Network Project

Connecting China Education Community to the Global Internet - The China Education and Research Network Project

April 20, 1995

Xing Li <>

Jianping Wu <>

Youneng Liang <>


The global Internet has now become an ever so powerful information carrier in many countries. However, only very few regional networks in China are connected to the Internet. To change this situation, the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) project has been established. CERNET consists of a nation-wide backbone which is connected to the global Internet, eight regional networks and more than 1,000 campus networks. Due to the huge population in China, CERNET will dramatically increase the number of users in the Internet community. In this paper, the plan and implementation of CERNET will be discussed. The overall objective of the CERNET project is to build Internet in China to satisfy the current users and to cater for the development in the coming century.


1 Introduction

2 The Objective of the CERNET Project

3 The Organization Structure

4 The Strategies of CERNET Planning

5 The CERNET Structure

6 Network Applications

7 The Scale of CERNET

8 The CERNET Implementation Phases

9 Conclusion


Author Information

1 Introduction

China's economy has been growing very fast in recent years and China is becoming more and more open to the outside world. At the same time, the construction of the global information infrastructure has become a world trend. The Chinese government is promoting the construction of the China Information Infrastructure (CII), with the Internet connection forming one of the major concerns.

The first network cooperating with the outside world in China is China Academic Network (CANET) which was established in 1988. CANET can exchange email with Internet using X.25 technology via a gateway in Karlruhe University, Germany. Dozens of China's education and research entities have joined CANET. In 1990 CANET registered the top domain "cn" in InterNic.

In 1990, China Research Network (CRN) was established. This network also uses X.25 link to exchange information with the outside world via RARE. There are more than ten research entities connected by CRN.

In 1993, the Institute of High Energy Physics in China established a direct link to Stanford University, USA. By 1994, a full Internet connectivity had been established for IHEP.

In 1989, the China State Planning Commission and the World Bank started to support a project called National Computing Facilities of China (NCFC). This project includes a supercomputer center and three campus networks, i.e. China Academic of Science Network (CASnet), Tsinghua University Network (TUnet) and Peking University Network (PUnet). The construction of these three individual campus networks had been completed by 1992. In 1994, a 64 Kbps satellite link was established and full Internet access became available to the users of CASnet, TUnet and PUnet.

There are other universities and research institutes who have established email or even full Internet links during the past few years. It is for sure that many people in China and all over the world want Chinese academic societies to join the global Internet. However, almost all Chinese network experts shared in the concern about the lack of coordination. One of the important reasons for this kind of situation is that no nation-wide education and research Internet backbone had been planned until 1993. Consequently, each entity had to look for its own connection. However, things are changing now.

In December 1993, the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) project started to be planned. It is the first nation-wide education and research computer network in China. The CERNET project is funded by the Chinese government and directly managed by the Chinese State Education Commission. CERNET will connect all the universities and institutes in China in the near future and will connect high schools, middle schools, primary schools and other education and research entities by the end of this century. CERNET will link to the global Internet and will become a major part of the Chinese Internet community.

Recently, commercial Internet projects are also carrying on in China. The Ministry of Post and Tele-communication will start providing commercial Internet service very soon. Other Chinese companies will also consider joining the commercial Internet market. Although after 25 years' growth, the Internet is getting into the commercialization process, due to the lack of Internet experience in China, CERNET has its unique and unreplaceable status among all the Internet competitors in China. We believe CERNET will greatly improve the education and research infrastructure in China and train network experts as well as experienced network end users. In a word, it will help to boost China's education, research and economic developments.

2 The Objective of the CERNET Project

China is one of the largest countries in the world. It has a territory of 9.6 km2 and a population of 1.1 billion. There are 28 provinces, 517 cities and 1,075 universities and institutes in China.

The main objective of the CERNET project is to establish a nation-wide education and research network infrastructure to support education and research in and among universities, institutes and schools in China using the up-to-date telecommunication and computer techniques. Its specific aims are as follows:

(1)Establish a nationwide backbone which connects eight regional networks and connect them to the global Internet.

(2)Set up a national network center.

(3)Set up ten regional network nodes.

(4)Adopt TCP/IP as the network protocol and establish network management systems.

(5)Provide Internet applications and develop China's information resources and applications.

3 The Organization Structure

The CERNET organization structure is shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1 The Organization Structure

The CERNET Administration Board is the highest level of the CERNET organization, which, composed of government officials, is in charge of policy making. The CERNET Technical Board is the technical administration board for planning, designing, implementation and updating the network. The National Network Center is the entity responsible for the backbone construction, execution, maintenance, management and operation. It is also in charge of setting up the CERNET information resources. The Regional Network Centers are the regional network service nodes, which undertake the role of providing the necessary connections and services for linking the campus network of each university/institution to the CERNET backbone. The campus networks are at the bottom of the whole structure and directly serve the end users.

The CERNET national network center includes a network information center (NIC), a network operation center (NOC), a tele-communication division, a supercomputer division, a R&D division, a user service division and a training division. The CERNET regional network nodes also have a similar structure.

4 The Strategies of CERNET Planning

Although the demand for Internet connection is very high in China, the construction of the campus network is still in the very early stage. It is true that personal computers are getting more and more popular in China, but most of them are running DOS and Windows. Accordingly, IPX is the dominant network protocol. It is interesting to note that, while in some of the developed countries, the nation-wide backbone was established after the construction of campus networks, in China, by contrast, we are trying to establish the nation-wide backbone to boost the construction of the campus network. Due to the funding constrain, the strategies of CERNET planning are as follows:

(1)Centralized planning and decentralized implementation. Based on the CERNET project, the nation-wide backbone and the global Internet connection are fully supported by the Chinese government, while the construction of the regional networks and campus networks will utilize funds coming from different sources. Therefore, the overall network structure is designed by the CERNET Technical Board and can be realized when funding permits.

(2) Based on the open/standard principle, adopting TCP/IP as the major network protocol. Therefore, full Internet access can be realized to all education and research communities in China.

(3) Strategically supporting the promotion of the regional network nodes and the construction of campus networks. The "early bird" universities can become the connection points of the local areas and get benefits.

(4)Centralized management and operational control of the backbone and decentralized management and control of regional networks. Due to the scale of CERNET, the nation-wide backbone and all the backbone routers are managed by the network center, while the management of the regional networks is undertaken by the corresponding regional network centers.

(5)Developing Chinese network application tools and network resources. The localization is always a major problem for Chinese society. Therefore, much attention is devoted to the development of the Chinese environment. In addition, a long term plan has been made to build up China's information resources.

5 The CERNET Structure

CERNET has a three-layer hierarchy (the nation-wide backbone, regional networks and campus networks), as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2 The CERNET Management Structure

The network center is located at Tsinghua University, Beijing. The backbone nodes are set in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Xi'an, Wuhan, Chengdu and Shenyang cities. Each node will become the regional network center and serve several provinces, see Table 1.

Table 1: CERNET Regional Networks

	Region           Provinces
	Beijing  (BJ)    Beijing city, Tianjin City, Hebei, 
		 	 Shanxi, Inner Mongolia
	Shanghai (SH)    Shanghai City, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi
	Nanjing  (NJ)    Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong
	Xi'an    (XA)    Shannxi, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Hainan
	Guangzhou(GZ)    Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan
	Wuhan    (WH)    Hubei, Hunan, Henan
	Chengdu  (CD)    Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet
	Shenyang (SY)    Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang
The network implementation uses a multiple ring topology, which provides redundant paths between any two backbone nodes, as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3 CERNET Backbone

The digital data network (DDN) provided by the Ministry of the Post and Communication and/or some telecommunication corporations will be used as the basic communication carrier. The data transmission rate starts at 64 Kbps to 2.048 Mbps (E1). The public data network (X.25) will be used as the backup channel.

There will be one to three links to the global Internet, each with a data transmission rate greater than or equal to 64 Kbps. The first remote node is set in the United States with the trunk speed 128 Kbps (256 Kpbs in the near future). Other remote nodes will be located in the Asia Pacific Region and Europe.

The backbone nodes are interconnected by routers. The backbone itself forms an autonomous system, OSPF is selected as the interior routing protocol. Eight regional networks also form their own autonomous systems, BGP-4 is selected as the exterior routing protocol between the CERNET backbone and regional networks. The CIDR technology is used in each regional network. At this moment, about ten superblocks are reserved for the CERNET universities and institutes.

6 Network Applications

CERNET is a TCP/IP based network and will support all the Internet applications, which include communication between people - email, usenet news, talk, cu-seeme, mbone, etc., obtaining information - anonymous ftp, archie, gopher, www, etc. and using computers - telnet, client/server systems, etc.

Currently, CERNET has several network resources which can be accessed by the global Internet.



telnet:, login name: public (Tsinghua University Library Chinese and English Catalog)

listserv: (Internet in China discussion group)

listserv: (China's Scholars Abroad Chinese Magazine)

cu-seeme reflector: (ID 0)

Recently, special funding is set up to support network applications. Hundreds of proposals have been received by the CERNET Technical Board and carefully reviewed. The supported research and development are in the following areas.

(1)Develop Chinese network environment, including Chinese email and information discovery system for different platforms. It is interesting to note that different Chinese coding systems are used in the global Internet. For example, GB code is used in mainland China, while BIG5 code is used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Other Chinese coding methods are also used by different groups. In order to set up a Chinese information exchange standard, a working group including CERNET experts has been formed to work out a RFC.

(2)Develop China's and Chinese information resources. There are so many interesting topics, including China's history, geography, culture and other things, for example Peking opera, the Three Gorges, Chinese stamps collection, Chinese martial arts, Chinese medicine and so on. A lot of information servers are expected to come out in the near future, which can be accessed by the global Internet.

(3)Develop multimedia communication application, computer collaboration and other research projects.

(4)Distributed library, remote education and other big projects are also proposed and will be funded by different government entities.

7 The Scale of CERNET

In mainland China, there are 1,075 universities, 390,000 professors and staff members, 94,200 graduate students and 2,184,000 undergraduate students. The distribution of the universities and students corresponding to the eight regional networks is shown in Table 2.

Table 2: The Distribution of the Universities and Students

        Region      Universities       Students
	Beijing		191		372,212
	Shanghai	153		305,646
	Nanjing		156		325,629
	Xi'an   	100		180,245
	Guangzhou	 74		145,255
	Wuhan		156		302,063
	Chengdu		113		219,664
	Shenyang	147		287,751
More than 100 campus networks will be connected to CERNET in two years, each of which will, on average, consist of more than 2,000 computers.

As mentioned above, the CIDR technology will be used for the CERNET project, as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Superblock assignment

	 Region        IP Space
The top level universities and institutes in China are applying for IP addresses now, on average they have got or will get 8 - 32 class C address spaces. Since the IP address is a valuable resource at this moment, we have asked them to try to utilize IP space more efficiently. This may make them use more routers.

The rest 900+ universities and institutes will be connected to CERNET in five years. Following that, more than 39,412 middle schools with 55,120,000 students and 160,000 primary schools with 122,000,000 pupils will also be linked to CERNET. Since China has the largest population, CERNET will be the largest education and research network in the world.

Due to the huge requirement of IP addresses for the CERNET project, the establishment process of IPNG may get boosted.

8 The CERNET Implementation Phases

There are two phases of implementation. During the first phase (1994-1995), the national network center, ten regional network nodes, the nation-wide backbone and the global Internet connection will be established. There will be more than 100 universities and institutes connected to CERNET in this implementation phase.

In the second phase of implementation (1996-2000), CERNET will connect all the universities, institutes, thousands of middle schools, primary schools and other education and research entities in China. The data transmission rate of the CERNET backbone will be increased, new technology will be adopted and new applications will be available to most of the people in the education and research community.

9 Conclusion

The CERNET project is one of the fastest progressing projects in China. Due to the huge population in China, CERNET will dramatically increase the number of users in the Internet community. As the famous chart (see Fig. 4) shows, by the year 2001, the number of users of Internet will amount to the world population, however, without China, Internet cannot reach this goal. CERNET would like to make its contribution to the Internet society.

Fig. 4 Prediction Chart

The computer networks and other telecommunication projects in China have broad and promising prospects. CERNET can serve as the communication and resource infrastructure for education and research in China. It will train China's future telecommunication, network and computer professionals and experts in all areas. It can also function as a showcase of the leading edge technology. We sincerely welcome universities, organizations and enterprises from China and abroad to cooperate with CERNET to build the largest education and research network on earth.


P. J. Denning, "The ARPANET after Twenty Years", American Scientist., vol. 77, pp. 530-534, November-December 1989.

China State Statistics Bureau, "China Development Report 1993", China Statistics Press, February 1994.

D. E. Comer, "Internetworking with TCP/IP", Prentice Hall Press, April 1991.

E. Krol, "2nd Edition, The Whole Internet - User's Guide & Catalog", O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. April 1994.

C. Hunt, "TCP/IP Network Administration", O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. January 1994.

Author Information

Xing Li is Professor of Electronic Engineering at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. He is a Member of the CERNET Technical Board. His mail address is Electronic Engineering Department, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.

Jianping Wu is Professor of Computer Science at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. He is the Head of the CERNET Technical Board. His mail address is Computer Science Department, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.

Youneng Liang is Professor of Engineering Physics and the Vice President of Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. He is the Head of the CERNET Administration Board. His mail address is President Office, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.

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