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May 1994 -- present

Network Overview
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The China Matrix

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Network StructureIndex
Network Overview

China's Internet is made up of 4, largely separate national networks: ChinaNet, the primary commercial network run by the Ministry of Information Industry(MII); the Golden Bridge Network (GBNet,) a much smaller, competing commercial network owned by Jitong Corporation; China Science and Technology Network (CSTNet,) the nation's high technology research network, and the China Educational and Research network (CERNet) linking China's academic and learning institutions from grade school to post-graduate level. A fifth network, the ATM-based China Multimedia Services Network, is currently under development and is already available in a number of series. The network, also referred to as the 169 network (what users dial to log on), currently offers limited access to the international Internet.

Until March of 1997, these four networks had virtually no interconnectivity -- all internetwork traffic had to be routed via the US. Today, there is limited connectivity via low bandwidth (128k) leased line connections between the four networks, though these connections are completely saturated. There are, as of yet, no NAPs or peering relationships to improve the efficiency of network traffic. With little or no redundancy, network flow is subject to frequent outages.

The majority of commercial users access the network via dial-up accounts, supporting speeds of up to 33.6K. ChinaNet account holders dial the same number throughout China (163) and have several choices of payment plans. Access charges have been steadily dropping. The cheapest plan offers 3 hours of monthly access for just 20 RMB ($2.50 US). Users can also get 75 hours a month for 300 RMB ($36 US). In addition, users must pay local phone charges roughly 4RMB (50 cents US) per hour.


Network: ChinaNet:BTA
Purpose: Primary national network. Government, business, and public use.
Major Nodes: Beijing, Shanghai
Structure: See Network Maps.
Summary: China's primary commercial network now connects more than 230 cities in all 31 provinces. ChinaNet officials plan to cover more than 360 cities nationwide by late 1999. Long term plans are to link all government offices, over 360,000 state enterprises in more than 600 cities, and over 8 million other industrial and commercial enterprises throughout China. The network backbone, the Digital Data Network, has recently been upgraded to support E1 connections between major nodes, and is now connected to the global Internet via at least 14 gateways for a total international bandwidth of 78 MBps (ChinaNet's total bandwidth jumped significantly with the late March opening of an AT&T 45MBps underwater cable from Shanghai to the US.) Further international bandwidth increases are expected in early 1999. Managed by the Beijing Telecommunications Agency, a branch of the recently formed Ministry of Information Industry. Has begun offering a wide range of commercial access, including dial-up PPP accounts for individual access, and leased line accounts.


Network: Golden Bridge Network -- GBNet
Purpose: Commercial network.
Primary Node: Beijing
Structure: VSAT and land line connections. See Network Maps.
Online Information: GBNet introduction
Summary: The only licensed commercial competitor to ChinaNet, GBNet currently maintains nodes in at least 6 locations, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Dalian. Owned by Jitong Corp., a subsidiary of the MEI, formed in 1994. Maintains two international gateways in Beijing totaling roughly 2.25 MBps.

Purpose: Scientific communication and research.
Major Nodes:CSTNet main, IHEP, PUnet, and TUnet.
Structure: See Network Maps.
On-line Information: Chinese language introductions to network structure and purpose are available via the main page.
Summary: The original ChinaNet, once known as NSFNET and CASnet. This network first linked to the Internet via a Sprint 64kbps line May 1994. Primary network for research institutions and scientists.

Purpose: Linking academic institutions from elementary schools to universities.
Primary Nodes: CERNET main, Beijing (PKU,BUPT, Tsinghua), Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xi'an, Chengdu, Shenyang
Structure: See Network Maps.
Online Information: Network Center, Brief introduction, Regional Centers, Network Information Center
Summary: The main scholarly computer network in China. Got its own link to internet via 128kbps Sprint link in May 1995.

Network Maps

Fiber optic trunk layout (late 95)
China DDN (late 95)
International Gateways (December, 1996)

CERNET: Net Structure
CERNET's network topology. Clicking on network nodes takes you to their respective homepages.

CSTNET's domestic structure (small) (larger 1200x776 pixels)

GBNet backbone structure -- November, 1997. Shows land line connections and speeds along with VSAT connections.

User StatisticsIndex

How Many Internet Users are there?

CNNIC'S latest report provides the following data for January 1999:

total computers connected to the net: 747,000
total direct connections: 117,000
total dial-up connections: 630,000
total estimated dial-up users: 1,490,000
total estimated leased line users: 400,000
total estimated users with both leased line and dial-up: 210,000
total unique Internet users: 2.1 million

Based on Matrix East analysis the picture looks more like this:

total registered accounts: 747,000
total estimated dial-up users: 3,080,700
total estimated leased line users: 954,954
total unique Internet users: 3.8 million

Matrix East estimates are based on the incorporation of terminal sharing, unauthorized proxy networks, and account sharing habits as they appear in seven access sub-sectors (such as business leased line and consumer dial-up) into estimates of the number users per registered accounts (see table below.)

For a thorough explanation of the multiplier issue and Matrix East's estimate see Appendix B: Exploring sub-sector multipliers in the Market Size and Demographics D-Briefing. (info)

Sub-sector Registered Accounts
Users per Account
Estimated Net Users
Leased Line Business 67,392
Leased Line Government 15,912
Leased Line Academic/Research 33,930
Dial-up Consumer 220,500
Dial-up Business 201,600
Dial-up Government 81,900
Dial-up Academic/Research 126,000
Total Unique Internet Users3,833,872

According to the CNNIC reports, the typical Internet user is young, male, urban, college-educated, technically oriented, and accesses the Internet from a Windows PC. A very high percentage come from China's major cities. According to the latest report, 37 per cent of users have incomes between 400 and 1000 RMB a month. For the complete text of the CNNIC January 1999 survey (in Chinese GB) see this page


Matrix East forecasts for China market growth are continually revised and are available to subscribers of the China Net D-Briefing service. Matrix East's December 1998 three year projections for Internet growth are below. Projected values are for the middle of each referenced year.

Stay the Course Scenario
Year Growth Rate User Total (millions)
1999 100% 4.8
2000 80% 8.6
2001 50% 13

Network RegulationsIndex
Chinese Originals

Master List of Regulations
(in Chinese GB) Includes regulations released from 1994 until December, 1997.
Jisuanji Xinxi Wangluo Lianwang Anquan Baohu Guanli Banfa
December 30, 1997

English Translations

Original Feb 96 Regulations
Promulgated by the State Council of the People's Republic of China on February 1, 1996 under State Council Command Number 195, modified based on The State Council Command Number 218 promulgated on May 20, 1997)
"New Internet Regulations Codify PRC Internet Practice"
Latest December 30, 1997 regulations.

Major Web sitesIndex
Chinese Only

English available

About the China MatrixIndex
Editor, Kenneth Farrall

Kenneth Farrall is president of Kenneth Neil Farrall, an online publishing and advisory firm with expertise in the Greater China Internet market.

Terms & Conditions

Kenneth Neil Farrall provides this information to readers as a public service. No warranties are expressed or implied.

Kenneth Neil Farrall endeavors to ensure that the information available at The China Matrix is correct, but does not accept any liability for any errors or omissions.

Any copying, retransmission, or redistribution of The China Matrix, in any form, is forbidden without the express written consent of Kenneth Neil Farrall.

Corrections & Comments

Please send any corrections, additions, or comments to Kenneth Farrall, at

All Contents © Kenneth Neil Farrall 1999