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5. JPNIC and the Internet Japanese Page

"Report on the Visit to China"

by Naomasa Maruyama, Vice President of JPNIC

1. Foreword

I was fortunate to attend China Inet99, held in Beijing from May 18 to May 20, as well as visiting Tsinghua University and CNNIC. A brief report of this trip follows.

To the best of my knowledge, this was the third China Inet conference following 1995 and 1997, the latter of which I also attended in November of that year. The conference is actually organized by Beijing Internet-Networking Institute (北京英納特網絡研究所), but is officially sponsored by the Chinese government, with the Ministry of Information and Industry (MII) responsible for this year's conference. The MII was recently formed as a result of a merger between the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), the Ministry of Electronics, and a governmental broadcasting agency, the official name of which escapes me. Therefore, MII has put considerable effort into this conference, its second China Inet conference as sponsor. Unfortunately, however, the accidental NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia immediately prior to the conference turned out to have an adverse impact on the conference's operation. The Chinese government adopted the stance that the accidental bombing would have no impact on China Inet, but unfortunately anti-US demonstrations broke out in certain parts of China, which resulted in leading US firms becoming somewhat oversensitive, canceling exhibitions and prohibiting employees from visiting China. As a result, Vint Cerf and many other US participants were unable to attend, which meant that the program schedule could not be finalized until just before the start of the conference. However,the situation in Beijing turned out to be extremely calm.

2. China Inet

On the first day of the conference, June 18, there was a ceremony where the major participants greeted the head of MII (equivalent to a government minister in Japan). There were considerable problems with the program, partly due to the wide-scale cancellations from US participants, and despite the fact that I had notified the organizers of my intention to speak about our policy for domain name disputes, I found that I had been included in the session on 'Applied Network Techniques' on the afternoon of the 19th. According to the program,the talk prior to my own was to be given by Professor Li Xing of Tsinghua University on the subject of 'CERNET's Next Generation Ipv6 Plan'. Professor Li has been a pioneer in promoting the Internet in China, and was elected as an APNIC Executive Council Member at the APNIC general meeting in March. I had also asked him to show me around Tsinghua University during my visit there. However, the talk on Ipv6 turned out to be given not by Professor Li, but by a young graduate student of his, Chen Maoke. The talk was well received, with a large number of the auditorium's 300 seats being taken. I was moved by the enthusiasm of Mr. Chen's speech despite my lack of Chinese language ability.

Unfortunately the audience for my talk was only a fraction of that for Mr. Chen, in part due to the fact that the theme of my talk differed somewhat from that of the rest of the session, but I was pleased to note a number of people listening with interest.

3. Visit to Tsinghua University

Following the three-day conference, I visited Tsinghua University and CNNIC on Friday May 21. As both places are located in the north-west of Beijing and are relatively close to one another, I decided to visit Tsinghua University before moving on to CNNIC. While I had visited CNNIC during my previous visit in 1997, it was my first visit to Tsinghua University. Mr. Chen Maoke, who had delivered the talk on Ipv6 at the conference, picked me up at my hotel and took me to the university by taxi. I first visited the office of Professor Li, who then guided me around the CERNET facilities managed by the university. I also had the opportunity to speak with Professor Wu, who was Professor Li's teacher, for around a minute or so.

CERNET is one of China's four main internet providers, and is involved in organizing network connections for Chinese universities and academic research institutions, as well as managing and operating.edu.cn domain names. CERNET's facilities are in the same building as Professor Li's office, and are home to network operators and staff involved in the management of .edu.cn domain name registrations.During my visit, there were some 5 or 6 people in the .edu.cn division. Tsinghua University's own computing center is housed in the neighboring room. I was also shown around a terminal room for students,which featured a bar code reader at the entrance, used to record the time of entry/exit and manage usage charges.

When I asked about internet use by students, I was told that general students are provided with accounts from which they are unable to access overseas sites, and that a supervisor's permission is required in order for a student to be provided with an account from which overseas access is possible. It appears that Chinese language software is still at a surprisingly early stage of development, and I was told that they had experienced problems handling Chinese symbols with an electronic bulletin board system they had installed, and that the government was recommending the use of dedicated Chinese language terminals. While the use of dedicated terminals may seem a little anachronistic, it appears to be due to the particularly high price of Windows software. The list prices for Windows98 and Office 97 are 1998 yuan and 7400 yuan respectively. While I found them reduced by around 20% at a discount shop I visited that evening, these prices are still stunningly high given that 1 yuan equals around 15-16 yen, and given that the standard Beijing bus fare is 0.5 yuan. However, I was finally able to purchase both packages for a total of 5900 yuan. The dealer seemed to agree to this price because he was reluctant to lose a rare customer for such an expensive product. The fact that I was a foreigner, and as such, there was no risk of my receipt turning up in government or corporate accounts, may also have been a contributing factor.

4. Visit to CNNIC

I visited CNNIC on the afternoon of the 21st. After having lunch at a nearby restaurant with two CNNIC staffs, I had some discussion with one of them Zhang Wen-hui in the conference room, where we spoke about the domain name dispute policy, as well as the allocation of IP addresses. Ms. Zhang is the sister-in-law of Mao Wei, Secretary General of CNNIC, and is mainly responsible for managing IP addresses.The other person who is responsible for IP address was visiting an applicant that day to carry out an inspection.

CNNIC is located within the China Academy of Science, and I noticed that the number of people there had increased considerably since my last visit in 1997. What I found particularly surprising during my visit to CNNIC was the fact that NEC was listed on the information board at the gate of the China Academy of Science. Apparently the Academy makes money from renting out vacant rooms to private-sector firms. From my Japanese perspective, it was difficult to understand such behavior on the part of a government institution.

5. Internet Providers in China

The following is a brief summary of the situation regarding internet providers in China, based on my discussions with Li Xing and other people at CNNIC.

While the number of providers has increased considerably with the gradual introduction of a market economy, permission from the MPT remains necessary in order to operate international lines. And there are presently just four providers with this permission: China Net,ChinaGBN (China Golden Bridge Network), CSTNET (China Science and Technology Network), and CERNET (China Education and Research Network). China Net and ChinaGBN are operated by the telecommunications carriers China Telecom and Ji-Tong, respectively,and while these companies were apparently once affiliated with the MPT and the Ministry of Electronics (MOE) respectively, it appears that they have since been privatized. CSTNET is operated by the China Academy of Science, while CERNET is ostensibly managed by the National Education Committee, but in effect is operated mainly by Tsinghua University.

6. Recent Changes

The above details are the same as when I visited China in 1997, but there have recently been a couple of significant changes to the situation regarding internet providers. One is the granting of permission in April to a fifth international line provider, Uninet.Unicom, the company that operates Uninet, apart came into existence with the support of the Ministry of Railways, the Ministry of Electricity, and the Ministry of Electronics (MOE). The second change is the birth of the Ministry of Information and Industry (MII). MII was formed as a result of a merger between the MPT, the MOE, and a governmental broadcasting agency, the official name of which I neglected to ask.

7. The Future of CNNIC

Given this background, the future of CNNIC is a matter of considerable interest. CNNIC was established on July 1, 1997 as a result of cooperation between China Net, ChinaGBN, CSTNET, and CERNET, with its operating policy to be determined by a CNNIC working committee made up of representatives from each of the four institutions. In other words, CNNIC was originally established with the support of the four major providers, or effectively, with the support of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), the Ministry of Electronics (MOE),the China Academy of Science, and the National Education Committee.However, there has since been a fundamental change to this support structure. When I asked Zhang Wen-hui and Walter Wu about this point,they told me that the future of CNNIC is unclear, with some people at MII looking to disband CNNIC, and others opposed to this idea.Regarding the working committee, they have not met since last fall.

8. 国際互聯網, 英納特網絡, 因徳網 (Chinese Language Terms for 'The Internet')

Many readers may be familiar with the Chinese phrase '',used as a term for the Internet. I saw this term used in a number of places, including the program booklet for China Inet. However,business cards for the Beijing Internet-Networking Institute, the actual organizer of the conference, use the title '北京英納特網絡研究所', suggesting that the phrase '英納特網絡' is also used with reference to the Internet. I was also interested to see, during my stay in Beijing, a sign on the wall of a post office reading '代収 Internet 因徳網服務費', suggesting that post offices are acting as money collection agencies for internet service fees. It seems that '因徳網' is yet another term for the Internet. This sign made a strong impression on me, as it indicated that the Internet is gradually beginning to permeate through to the citizens of Beijing.

I will continue to keep readers informed of the situation regarding the Internet in China whenever I have an opportunity.

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