China Internet Museum

Current Position: History>>1980s-1993


The Internet was born in the United States in 1969 and evolved continuously, attracting great attention from the people all around the world. Since the birth of the Internet, some countries and regions in North America, Europe and Asia have accessed to the Internet one after another; China, the country with the largest population in the world, also looked forward to experiencing the international Internet that represents information civilization. Due to historical and political reasons, China encountered enormous resistance and experienced many twists and turns in the process of bringing in the emerging technology and new civilized achievement after the reform and opening up. Fortunately, it has ultimately succeeded in embracing the Internet. It took eight years from the launching of the academic network project of China in 1986 to the approval of China's fully functional access to the global Internet by international organizations and agencies including those in the United States, and the process was as difficult as the Eight Years' War of Resistance.

However, the historical trend is irresistible and the progress towards the era of information civilization represents the general trend. Thanks to their meticulous preparations and unremitting efforts, China's scientists and technologists, under the strong support of friendly people from foreign countries, have finally approached step by step the Internet, the greatest invention of the 20th century that can bring people unlimited imagination. In 1986, China initiated its academic network project and accessed remotely the host node in Geneva via a satellite link; in 1987, China sent its first email via the Internet of Italy and Germany; in 1990, China's top level domain .cn was registered; in 1993, the Institute of High Energy Physics under Chinese Academy of Sciences gained access to the energy network of the United States by leasing a satellite link of the country; at the beginning of 1994, China's request to access the Internet to the US National Science Foundation (NSF) was agreed by the US side, marking the start of the Internet era of China. The success of China's access to the Internet is a result of the hard work and efforts of numerous scientists, engineers, foreign friends, friendly international organizations and governmental decision-making departments. On one hand, the situation that the Internet was inaccessible to certain countries and disallowed access and use to a greater extent in the early stage due to political reasons has been broken; on the other hand, due to the high technical threshold and extremely limited resources of the Internet during the initial period, the Internet was only accessible to a few of scientists, technologists and researchers, and its use was confined to scientific researches and academic exchanges.

The good news was that China attached great importance to the introduction and development of the Internet, made active preparations for the development of Internet infrastructures, and had gradually built some high-level special science & technology network and campus networks, for example, the backbone network of NCFC (National Computing and Networking Facility of China), campus networks of Tsinghua University and Peking University as well as CASNET had been completed at the end of 1992. The above efforts had made full preparations for China's fully functional access to the global Internet in the aspects of technology and public opinion environment, and the important moment for China's network to integrate into the worldwide information Internet has finally arrived.

Key Events

1989 In the late 1980s, China started to develop its education and scientific research networks

The early development of the Internet of China mainly aims to serve scientific research and management. Therefore, the earliest network had gradually evolved into CSTNet that links all scientific research institutions in China.  During this period, China had experienced three different stages of engineering development, namely NCFC, CASNET, CSTNET.

In October 1989 when people in the science and technology community were actively appealing for Internet access, a key discipline project was officially approved where the State Development Planning Commission utilized a World Bank loan. The project was domestically known as "Education and Scientific Research Demonstration Network for the Zhongguancun Area", and internationally referred to as "National Computing and Networking Facility of China" (NCFC) by the World Bank. The project was started in November of the year.

Since 1990, scientific research institutes including Beijing Institute of Computer Technology and Application, the Institute of High Energy Physics under Chinese Academy of Sciences, North China Computer Research Institute of the Ministry of Electronics  and No. 54 Institute of the Ministry of Electronics in Shijiazhuang successively connected their computers to CNPAC (X.25). At the end of 1993, more than 30 CAS institutes in Zhongguancun District as well as Peking University and Tsinghua University were interconnected via optical cable. Soon after the interconnection, CAS started its nationwide project of CAS network (CASNET) and connected the local area networks of its 12 branches and research institutes in other cities to the wide area network in Beijing, connecting 24 cities (including Beijing).

Later on, it has ultimately completed the China Science and Technology Network (CSTNET) after years of information infrastructure construction, CSTNET, education network, public network and trade network are four backbone networks of China that connect the international Internet.

1993The Three-Golden Projects started at the end of 1993

In 1993, the U.S. government proposed the Information Superhighway Initiative; in the same year, China also proposed the Three-Golden Projects, that is, building the "National Quasi Information Highway" to better serve its economic and social development. At the end of 1993, China officially launched the project for information application of its national economy, marking the start of China's Internet infrastructure construction.

The so-called "Three-Golden Projects"refers to the Golden Bridge, Golden Gateway and Golden Card projects collectively. Of which the Golden Bridge Project is most closely linked with the Internet experience of the general public. As the national economic information network of China, GBnet aims to connect the central government, local governments, cities, large and medium-sized enterprises, specially-designated key conglomerates and national key projects, so as to finally form a trunk line of electronic information highway and connect itself with global information superhighways. It forms an integrated space-ground network structure in the modes of optical fiber, microwave, program control, satellite and wireless mobile and sets up the national public information platform, namely, only the officials of some Party and government organizations and employees of some public institutions and enterprises are entitled to the network.

As a part of the national network project of economic and trade information, the Golden Gateway project mainly serves import & export trade departments by efficiently managing the nationwide material market circulation via computer. The interconnection eliminates the disadvantages of delayed and inaccurate import & export data as well as drawbacks of license, certificate of origin, amount of tax, collection and settlement of exchange and export rebates, etc., so as to reduce losses, realize custom clearance and conform to international practices of EDI custom clearance.

The Golden Card Project plans to take 10 years to promote and popularize financial transaction cards amongst the 300 million urban residents starting from the electronic currency project, thereby accelerating the progress towards the era of electronic currency. As of October 7, 1996, the electronic currency project had been rolled out in Tibet and Beijing.

1987 On September 20, 1987, China's first email was sent out

China's first email was sent out from the Computer Technology Application Research Institute of Chinese Weapon Industry at 20:55 PM (Beijing Time) on September 20, 1987. The research team started schematic design and experimentation on a SIEMENS 7760 mainframe as early as in 1986. Because China was not a member of Computer Science Network (CSNET) at that time, its computers could only connect to the global network via the University of Karlsruhe in Germany. At that time, the Internet concept had not been established yet in China. In the area of computer application, developed countries were on guard against China, their key equipment and technology were inaccessible to us, and therefore, we were confronted with prominent problems of computer hardware and software incompatibility. It was until July 1987 when Professor Werner Zorn of the University of Karlsruhe brought to China compatible system software from Germany that the Institute's computers were technically capable of getting connected with the Internet and sending/receiving email.

On the evening of September 14, technical experts of the institute gathered around "7760" to try to send an email indicated with "testing" on its upper part. Li Chengjiong suggested using "across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world"as the content of the email, which he considered conforms to the actual development situation of China. Professor Werner Zorn wrote the email rapid on the computer. He tried several times, but failed to send it out. The experts had to take about a week to check the software and hardware systems of the computer. On September 20, 1987, the research group tried again to send the email to the international computer network. "It is an email that has no specific addressee." Li Chengjiong said that the email serves as a "network paging", by which China hoped that the outside world could hear from its computer network. At 20:55PM, with a click of the mouse, the word "sent"appeared on the computer screen.

1993On March 2, 1993, the Institute of High Energy Physics of CAS was connected to the subnet of the United States via satellite link

In March 1993, the Institute of High Energy Physics Chinese Academy of Sciences was connected to the international Internet via satellite link, enabling some Chinese scientists to access the scientific research network of the United States.

On March 2, the 64K special line, where Institute of High Energy Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences hired the international satellite channel of AT & T Company to access Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) of Stanford University of the U.S., was officially put into operation. After the special line was opened, the US government rejected socialist countries to access its network except for its energy network with the excuse of protecting the scientific and technological information and other resources on the internet. Any way, it was the first special line via which China had partially accessed the Internet. After this, National Natural Science Foundation of China gave strong support and made an investment of RMB300,000, enabling the persons in charge of the important projects of many disciplines to dial and access this special line of Institute of High Energy Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences and two hundred of scientists to use emails in China.

In fact, the Institute of High Energy Physics Chinese Academy of Sciences has begun to provide the general public with international network access services since 1990. It cooperated with the United States, Western Europe and Japan in scientific research projects, and had accumulated abundant experience in networking with other countries and regions. The direct access to the international Internet (Internet) via satellite communication laid a foundation for better utilizing the Internet resources and providing all walks of life with more flexible modes of Internet access. For example, it provided domestic users with non-business network services mainly by the three modes of remote terminal, email networking based on UUCP protocol and special line for individuals, small organizations and organizations with high demand for communication volume respectively.

1990 In November 1990, the registration of the domain of .CN was completed

On the Internet, the network site of each country or region needs to be identified by a certain domain. It is no exception that China needs a top-level domain that represents China to access to the international Internet. The top-level domain is .CN and its birth is the result of the cooperation between Chinese scientists and foreign friends.

In 1983, Professor Werner Zorn attended the 1st CASCO Conference in Beijing, during the meeting, he acquainted himself with Professor Wang Yunfeng, the former leader of the Research Institute of the Ministry of Machine Building and Electronics Industry (“Father of Tank" of New China), and they discussed about computer application and the promotion of computer network in China, etc., and established a profound friendship.

On October 10, 1990, Professor Wang Yunfeng and Professor Werner Zorn from Karlsruhe University of Germany discussed about the network applications in China, especially the issue of applying for international domain names. At that time, the domain names of countries in the world were generally comprised of two letters. Since the English abbreviation of China is CHN, Wang Yunfeng decided to use .CN to represent China.

However, an appointment shall be made to the Internet Information Center (InterNIC) to apply for a domain name. It was happened that Qian Tianbai who joined the CANET project came back from abroad not long ago, so he was arranged to contact Werner Zorn and lead the project. At the end of 1970s, Qian Tianbai went to Germany to purchase computer equipments for the Ministry of Ordnance Industry and heard about Internet for the first time. In 1987, he attended the international Internet workshop as the first Chinese that participated in international Internet conference.

In November 28, 1990, authorized by the Chinese side, Professor Werner Zorn set up the .CN top-level domain name server in the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, registered .CN at SRI-NIC (Stanford Research Institute's Network Information Center) and opened the international email services of the domain name, and registered Qian Tianbai who was responsible for administrative contact as a contact for management.

Qian Hualin, who, had begun to take charge of "National Computing and Networking Facility of China" (NCFC), a key discipline development project using World Bank loans since October 1989, planned to register .CN in the United States only found that the domain name had been registered by a person named T.B.Qian. T.B.Qian is Qian Tianbai. Later on, Qian Tianbai and Qian Hualin respectively acted as the administrative liaison officer and technical liaison officer for the .CN domain name of China. At the end of 1992, CASNET (the academy network of Chinese Academy of Sciences) was completed and the .CN server was moved to CASNET.