China Education and Research Network: A Continuous Report

Xing Li <>
Jianping Wu <>
Youneng Liang <>


At INET'95, under the title "Connecting China's Education Community to the Global Internet: The China Education and Research Network Project," the CERNET project was introduced and gained a lot of attention. This paper is a report on the CERNET project one year later. As a result of strong support from the Chinese government and the great demand for Internet access, we are happy to announce that the first phase of the CERNET construction was completed in December 1995, one year earlier than our original plan. At present, more than 100 universities and other academic entities are connected to CERNET and to the global Internet.

In this paper, we will first discuss the original design concepts of CERNET and their current implementation. The project management strategy will also be addressed. The network operation and network information service will then be described, and some of the important operation and information statistics will be analyzed. Next, we will describe CERNET's information resources and network applications. Finally, the impact of the CERNET project and China's Internet future will be analyzed.

1. Introduction

CERNET is the first nationwide education and research computer network in China. The CERNET project is funded by the Chinese government and directly managed by China's State Education Commission. It 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. It will link to the global Internet and will become a major part of the Chinese Internet community. The CERNET project will greatly improve the education and research infrastructure in China and will train network experts as well as experienced network end users.

The CERNET project has a three-layered structure, including a nationwide backbone, eight regional networks, and campus networks, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. CERNET structure.

Since China has a territory of 9.6 million square kilometers, a population of 1.1 billion, 28 provinces/autonomous regions, and 517 cities, it may be necessary for CERNET to add a provincial layer due to administrative considerations.

The CERNET national backbone uses a digital data network (leased line) offered by China's Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MPT). It forms a multiple ring topology and has an international link connected to the Internet in the United States via Sprintlink, as shown in Figure 2. Links to Hong Kong and Europe will be installed in the near future.

Figure 2. CERNET backbone.

The provinces/autonomous regions covered by eight CERNET regional networks are shown in Figure 3. This figure also presents the number of universities and number of students in each region.

Figure 3. Regional network.

CERNET finished its first phase of implementation in December 1995. Currently, more than 100 universities are connected to CERNET, from all provinces except Tibet. The regional distribution of these universities and the corresponding IP blocks (CIDR) are shown in Figure 4. It is clear that the Internet development in coast areas is much faster than in remote areas in China, the former having enjoyed much faster economic growth. This indicates the correlation between Internet development and economical development.

Figure 4. CERNET current connectivity.

2. Project management

The CERNET project is supported by the Chinese government. The CERNET Administration Board is the highest level of the CERNET organization; it is composed of government officials and is in charge of policymaking. Currently, three documents have been released as CERNET "Acceptable Use Policy". (Management Regulations of China Education and Research Network, China Education and Research Network Safety Management Contract, China Education and Research Network Users' Regulations).

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

Due to the clear distribution of responsibility, the CERNET project is very efficient, and implementation is ahead of schedule.

3. Network operation

The CERNET national Network Operation Center (NOC) is located in Beijing, and the regional Network Operation Centers are located in Xi'an, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Shanghai, and Shenyang, respectively. The NOCs are in charge of the day-to-day network operation, including

  1. Configuration management: The CERNET backbone is running OSPF as the routing protocol, BGP-4 with well-aggregated IP addresses linked to the global Internet and static links to the regional networks. The provincial network and campus networks are connected to the CERNET regional backbones, which consist of different topologies (star, multiple stars, and multiple rings). Digital Data Network, X.25, Frame Relay, microwave link, DDR, and combinations are the current communication carriers for different regional backbones.
  2. Fault management: Trouble ticket systems are used for both the national backbone and regional backbone operations. It has been observed that most of the problems in the past were due to the local loop failure of the DDN link.
  3. Performance management: The traffic at all the CERNET links is recorded and analyzed. For example, the record of the international link indicates that inbound traffic has been reaching its limit since the very early days, while outbound traffic is increasing and now reaching its limit too. Figure 5 shows a sample of the traffic to the global Internet, in which the red and blue lines indicate the inbound and outbound flow in megabytes per hour, respectively. All the statistics are used to fine-tune the performance of the network.

Figure 5. Sample of international traffic (1-4 March 1996).

  1. Security management: Although CERNET is an academic network, network security and information security are major topics in the network design as well as in the day-to-day operation. Firewalls and access lists have been set up on different levels to ensure the safety of the network.
  2. Accounting management: CERNET is now supported by the Chinese government. However, different charging models are being studied based on the network's statistical records, and may be used for future reference.

4. Network information service

The national Network Information Center (NIC) and regional network information centers are in charge of the network information service, including

  1. Registration service: As a nationwide ISP in China, CERNET Information Center cooperates with APNIC to reassign IP addresses to the universities and other education and research entities in China. CERNET Information Center also deals with DNS registration for, POC registration, and URL registration.
  2. Directory service: Currently, the IP address, DNS, POC, and URL are in the NIC Whois directories (
  3. Information service: The China Home Page at CERNET is the starting point for information about China, Whois, Gopher, and the CERNET anonymous ftp index database and is updated regularly. Telephone hotlines are also installed in the NICs for consulting.

5. Information resources and network applications

CERNET is a nationwide education and research network in China. CERNET has very rich information resources about China in both English and Chinese. The starting point for CERNET information is Figures 6 and 7 show CERNET's Chinese and English home pages, respectively.

Figure 6. CERNET home page (Chinese version).

Figure 7. CERNET home page (English version).

The CERNET information resources fall into seven categories:

  1. University information. In general, it contains university history, departments, courses, and related information (
  2. Information concerning technical/specialized topics. For example, China's stamp collection (, ancient Chinese poems (, China's water resources (, mines and treasure (, Chinese law database (, university equipment database ( The information is provided by experts in each field.
  3. Information concerning international sports events. For example, the 43th World Ping-Pong Championship (, the 95 Asia College Student Championship (, 3rd City Championship (, and so on.
  4. Hot topics for the general public. For example, Silk Road tourist information (http:/, Cantonese food recipes (, and Chinese folk arts (
  5. Libraries with html interface. For example, Tsinghua University Library ( and Peking University Library (
  6. Electronic magazines. China's Scholars Abroad (
  7. Mirror sites (

New information is added to the computer servers almost every day.

6. Regional network centers

Due to the size of China's territory and population, the regional network centers are playing a very important role in the CERNET project. The IP addresses are well aggregated by the regional networks (see Figure 4). The regional information and development is managed by the regional network center (

7. Localization

Although English is pretty popular on the Internet, localization is a very important issue for CERNET's development. Most of the CERNET home pages are written in two versions: Chinese and English. Since there are different coding schemes for the Chinese language (for example, GB and BIG), standards for exchanging codes are proposed and implemented. Under APNG internationalization sub-working group, Chinese exchanging codes named ISO-2022-CN and ISO-2022-CN/EXT have been submitted to the Internet. In addition, searching and indexing tools for the Chinese documents have been developed (

8. The Internet and China

In China, the Internet has been developing very rapidly in the past few years. The APNIC database indicates that more than 190 networks are registered under the country code CN. Among them, 19 are self-defined as Internet service providers. Besides CERNET, the other most important ISPs in China today are the following:

There are important issues related to China's Internet that call for a closer coordination between ISPs in China, such as,

9. Conclusion

CERNET is the first nationwide Internet in China and is developing fast in Chinese universities. This project is very important for the development of China's information infrastructure. In many respects, CERNET is unique:


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  4. X. Li, J. Wu, and Y. Liang, "The Planning, Implementation and the Social Impact of the China Education and Research Network Project," Proceedings of the 6th Pacific Science Conference, Beijing, 1995.
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Xing Li is professor of Electronic Engineering at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. He is a member of the CERNET Technical Board. His mailing address is Electronic Engineering Department, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China. His telephone and fax numbers are 86-10-62595983 and 86-10-62595933, respectively.

Jianping Wu is professor of Computer Science at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. He is the head of the CERNET Technical Board. His mailing address is Computer Science Department, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.

Youneng Liang is professor of Engineering Physics and vice president of Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. He is the head of the CERNET Administration Board. His mailing address is President's Office, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.