Nav Search

Developing an Integrated National Computing Network

By Liu Liehong Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2024-07-08

Computing power is a new productive force in the digital economy era, and a computing network is the digital infrastruc­ture that enables the extensive scheduling and operation of various forms of comput­ing power at the national scale. Accordingly, an integrated national computing network and sound computing power infrastructure have become indicators of national modernization. To develop computing power infrastructure in China, we must adapt it to our development requirements while respecting objective laws, strengthen top-level design and planning, optimize the layout of data centers, and improve comput­ing power scheduling between regions. This will enable us to strengthen the foundations required to build a Digital China.

I. The importance of quickly building an integrated national computing network

Reviewing the history of civilization, humankind has experienced the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and, now, the information revolution. Each of these has spawned new forms of infrastruc­ture driven by technological innovations, leading to industrial transformation as well as economic transformation and upgrading. A new round of scientific and technologi­cal revolution and industrial transforma­tion involving information technology is gathering momentum, which is profoundly changing modes of production and ways of life. Developing an integrated national computing network is a strategic measure that responds to the new round of scientific and technological revolution and indus­trial transformation. It is also a vital step in developing new quality productive forces, growing the digital economy, promoting coordinated regional development and flows of data, and meeting our commitments with regard to reaching peak carbon and carbon neutrality.


Visitors at the opening day of the China International Digital Economy Expo, held in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, from September 6 to 8, 2023. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER LUO XUEFENG

The starting point for accelerating the development of new quality productive forces

Global breakthroughs in artificial intel­ligence (AI) have led to a dramatic increase in demand for computing power, making it a major battleground of technological competition between major countries. The world’s most developed nations are improv­ing the strategic layout of their computing power to seize the advantage in cutting-edge technologies and future industries, such as new materials, biopharmaceuti­cals, genetic technology, fintech, and deep-sea and aerospace development, all of which are placing unprecedented demands on computing power infrastructure. An integrated national computing network will integrate and optimize computing resources across China, enabling us to meet the computing demands of various fields, reduce the cost and usage threshold of computing power, and enable us to make breakthroughs in cutting-edge technolo­gies such as quantum information. It will also empower emerging and future indus­tries and accelerate the development of new quality productive forces.

The pressing need to boost the strength, quality and size of the digital economy

As a result of the new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, computing power has come to constitute a core productive force of each country. Research has revealed that every 1 percentage point increase in the comput­ing power index of a country leads to 3.3‰ growth in its digital economy and a 1.8‰ increase in its GDP. In addition to its funda­mental importance to the digital economy, computing power greatly boosts integra­tion between the digital and real economies. The focus of demand for computing power is shifting from the internet and other information and communication technol­ogy (ICT) industries to the transportation, finance, education, medical care, technology, and energy industries, and it is increasingly related to economic growth, social devel­opment, and scientific and technological progress. The construction of an integrated national computing network will facilitate the digital transformation and upgrading of all industries and boost new industrializa­tion and the digital economy.


A staff member conducts an operational inspection in the micro-module server room at the China Unicom Guian Data Center, May 23, 2023. Guizhou is one of the eight major hubs of China’s national integrated computing power network. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER TAO LIANG

The key measures for coordinated regional development

Eastern China has considerable capacity for innovation, a rapidly developing digital economy, and sound industrial develop­ment. It has a high demand for computing power and is engaging in intensive infra­structure construction. Western China, on the other hand, has an underdeveloped digital sector, with shortages of talent and capital investment. The construction of an integrated national computing network will promote flows of data, computing power, and algorithm-related industries between east and west China. This will enhance the western region’s ability to attract and retain talent and investment, leading to flows of materials, capital, talent, and technology from east to west. It would also encourage internet and big data enterprises in eastern regions to expand their industrial chains to the western region, thereby stimulating the digital economy and promoting rapid economic development in the western region.

Supporting data flows

Given the current general unwillingness or disinclination to share certain data on the part of those who hold data, we need to accelerate the development of systems for data governance and trustworthy data flows to strengthen data security manage­ment. An integrated national computing network will lead to more efficiently sched­uled, green, and secure computing resource services to ensure trustworthy data flows and the implementation of data security and governance systems. It will enable us to achieve the interconnected and efficient allocation of data resources between indus­tries, regions, and systems, thereby improv­ing data resource development and utilization as well as realizing the value of data.

A key link in China’s strategy to reach peak carbon and carbon neutrality

A systematically arranged integrated national computing network will enable us to fully leverage the climate, energy, and environment of the western region by encouraging the clustering of data centers in areas with abundant resources. We can expand the supply and promote local consumption of renewable energy and strengthen connections between data, computing power, and energy sources to help China’s data centers produce less carbon and be greener and more sustain­able. Furthermore, with the rapid develop­ment of China’s digital economy, computing and electrical power are mutually support­ive and their development has become interlinked, making a smooth and efficient power system and computing power inextri­cable. By coordinating the layout of comput­ing and electrical power, our integrated national computing network can promote the use of green energy sources such as wind and solar power, strengthen resource conservation and encourage resource recycling, and proactively yet prudently promote the goal of reaching peak carbon and carbon neutrality.

II. The requirements for quickly developing an integrated national computing network

Developing an integrated national computing network is a huge and complex undertaking spanning multiple domains and regions. It requires sound handling of the relationships between planning in both qualitative and quantitative terms, supply and demand development, east-west links, and development and security, in order to boost Chinese modernization.

We will guide planning in both qualitative and quantitative terms of national computing resources with an appropriate degree of foresight and proactive and systematic development

In recent years, China’s computing power has become increasingly concentrated in the western region, with national hub nodes and data center clusters in the west averaging 60% cabinet space usage, which has greatly helped to rectify the imbalance in the distribution of computing power resources between east and west China. As the market for computing power applica­tions expands, there needs to be a focus on qualitative improvement in addition to quantitative growth. In terms of quality, we need to encourage the optimization of exist­ing resources and the integration of diverse types of resources. To adapt to the current demand for integrated applications of multi-element computing power centers, we must move beyond the traditional service model of a single computing power supply by encouraging localities to turn tradi­tional data centers into integrated comput­ing centers and promoting collaboration between computing resource services with different computing precision. We must also genuinely improve the utilization of China’s computing resources so as to reduce costs and increase efficiency. In terms of quantity, we need to curb blind development and ill-conceived projects. We will encourage distinct types of new computing power to develop in national hub nodes, build national hub nodes into national comput­ing power bases, and pursue the large-scale, intensive, and green development of computing power.

We will manage the relationship between a strong demand for and an effective supply of computing power so as to build new competitive strengths for future development

Due to the rapid rise of large models and other fields and applications of AI in China, demand for intelligent comput­ing resources has increased notably. In the course of the coordinated develop­ment of computing capacity in the eastern and western regions as well as the East-West Computing Resources Transmission Project (EWCRT Project), it is necessary to leverage the advantages of each of the national hub nodes, explore and optimize technical solutions and business models for network scheduling of computing resources of different types and in different locations, and increase the supply of cheap, quality, and convenient computing power, so as to achieve a balance between supply and demand of computing power. Based on the requirements of China’s major regional development strategies concerning the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, the Yangtze River Delta, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and Chengdu-Chongqing hubs will improve the layout of data centers within cities and surround­ing areas. The Inner Mongolia, Guizhou, Gansu, and Ningxia hubs which benefit from abundant clean energy supplies can be developed into green computing power bases. By undertaking medium- and high-latency services of the eastern region, we will promote the orderly transfer of eastern AI model training and inference, machine learning, video rendering, offline analy­sis, and storage. We will also undertake local real-time data processing as part of the masterplan for the development of our national computing power.

We will create a new coordinated layout between eastern and western regions with stronger links between national and sub-national hub node areas

Relying on emerging network technolo­gies to improve transmission efficiency, we will establish a mechanism for linking east and west, promote the construction of an inter-regional and multi-level high-speed directly connected network of computing power, and reduce the cost of east-west data transmission. We will overcome techni­cal obstacles to massive data transmis­sions, come up with a transaction settle­ment mechanism for the computing power market for the eastern, central and western regions, and bolster integration and innova­tion of computing power with data and algorithms, in order to develop a uniquely Chinese computing network. Moreover, as the EWCRT Project proceeds, non-national hub node areas will be keen to participate. We will develop urban computing networks, use new technological innovations, insti­tutional mechanisms and business models to exploit computing resources within and beyond cities that can be used for sched­uling. These measures will help develop computing power infrastructure within cities. To assist with the rapid integration of non-national hub node areas into the EWCRT Project, we will encourage cities with demand for computing power in eastern and central regions to pair with national hub nodes to form collabora­tive links, utilize national hub node computing power resources, and build an inter-regional computing power scheduling system. We will also explore cooper­ation on, and the joint construction of, computing networks using computing power “enclaves” among other models, efficiently match supply and demand for computing power resources, and create an integrated national comput­ing network featuring links at multiple levels, amalga­mation and innovation, and independent control.


An illustration of an all-analog photoelectronic chip developed by Chinese researchers at Tsinghua University. The research team at Tsinghua has overcome the physical limits constraining existing chips by developing the world’s first all-analog photoelectronic integrated computing chip based on the proposal of a new photoelectronic computing architecture. Xinhua

We will achieve a positive interplay between high-quality development and high-standard security as well as be mindful of worst-case scenarios and adopt a systematic approach

Based on the layout of the integrated national computing network, China’s computing power resources will become concentrated in eight major national hub nodes, and the coordination of comput­ing and electrical power is enabling green and intensive development of data centers, resulting in more efficient use of computing resources and greater value creation. Furthermore, in light of the growing threats to global network and data security, the concentration of China’s data centers poses security challenges, which requires national hub nodes to strengthen their security systems urgently and make improvements to prevent regional network and power outages as well as mitigate risks in extreme environments. To develop the integrated national computing network, we must pay close attention to security, improve the infrastructure, network, and data security of national hub nodes while simultaneously promoting their links with the security systems of non-national hub nodes. This will enable us to eliminate the concerns of computing power service users and build a solid line of defense for the development of an integrated national computing network.

III. The tasks for developing an integrated national computing network

There is significant momentum behind digital and smart development, which presents us with a rare opportunity to promote Chinese modernization through high-quality development. Efforts are required in various areas, including indus­trial ecology, computing power supply, network transmission, scheduling, and technological innovation, in order to build an inclusive, user-friendly, green, and secure integrated national computing network with network scheduling. We must also accelerate the building of computing power infrastructure, better serve the national data industry through high-quality develop­ment of the computing power economy, and promote the construction of a digital base of Chinese modernization.

We will improve the development ecosystem of the computing power industry to form a growth area in the high-quality development of the digital economy

The success of the computing power industry ecosystem depends on the partici­pation of multiple entities and the support of national hub nodes. The development of an integrated national computing network requires the participation of the whole society to constantly optimize the business environment. By simplifying approval procedures and lowering entry thresholds, we can attract more companies to invest in the computing power industry and promote the industry’s development, thereby encour­aging the growth of the entire industry chain ecosystem of computing networks. We also need to encourage the development of supporting industries related to computing network software and hardware in national hub node areas, improve the business ecosystem, and cultivate leading enterprises in the computing industry. We must create new growth areas based on our unique computing industry clusters, encourage the creation of new models that integrate data computing, and boost the data market, in order to realize the value of data and achieve the high-quality development of our digital economy.

We will consolidate points of support for building digital bases, with a high-quality computing power system as the mainstay

In accordance with our national strate­gic and economic development needs, we will coordinate the layout of the integrated national computing network, clarify the locations of computing power “reservoirs” of national hub nodes, and improve supplies of various computing power resources of national hub nodes. We will coordinate the development of computing resources, including general computing, smart computing, and supercomputing, design a rational computing resources struc­ture, increase the utilization of computing resources, and balance their supply and demand. We will advance the coordinated layout of computing and electrical power, optimize supplies of renewable energy for data centers, and improve the energy efficiency of data centers, so as to ensure the green and low-carbon development of China’s computing power infrastructure. We will create diffuse computing power clusters, fully integrate domestic comput­ing power resources, and quickly achieve economies of scale. We will provide partici­pants with efficient, convenient, safe, and reliable capabilities in terms of data storage, computing, and analysis as well as ensure that every aspect of data processing is efficient, low-cost, and intelligent.

We will develop high-standard transmission networks and an efficient scheduling model for computing power as well as identify areas of focus for cultivating the data market

In terms of the transmission networks, we must encourage and support basic telecom operators and industry chain enterprises to actively develop new computing networks, accelerate the construction of an inter-regional and multi-level high-speed directly connected network of computing power, and promote the deep integration of computing networks. We will also improve the overall performance of the computing network and ensure the safe and reliable transmission of data. Moreover, we must promote appli­cations of emerging network technologies with low latency, large bandwidth, and high reliability in the EWCRT Project, construct network trunk lines between national and non-national hub nodes, and improve the transmission performance and response speed of the computing network. We will establish a new billing model for computing power services, thereby guaranteeing that scientific research institutions and enter­prises, especially small, medium, and micro enterprises, can effectively utilize comput­ing power. With regard to the scheduling of computing power, we will support the development of a platform linking inter-regional supply and demand for computing power based around national hub nodes, while also encouraging links between non-national hub node cities and national hub nodes for computing power schedul­ing. We will explore ways to develop unified service standards and specifications related to computing power, create systems for computing power grid connectivity, schedul­ing and operations, and encourage techno­logical innovation and the development of new models for scheduling computing resources of different types and in different locations. We will build a computing power scheduling strategy engine to manage the amalgamation and scheduling of comput­ing resources across platforms, levels, and regions, promote efficient coordination between computing resources, and improve the efficiency of data aggregation, process­ing, circulation, and trading.

Based on our objective of attaining independent control over high-standard technologies, we will seek breakthroughs in greater self-reliance and strength in high-level science and technology

The building of an integrated national computing network must take into consid­eration our development and security. We should encourage central SOEs and leading enterprises to take the lead, promote the specialization and development of SMEs, and establish a new mechanism for cooper­ation between government and private investment. We will support private invest­ment in new infrastructure, bring into play the strengths of each link, accelerate innovation in key technologies, and seek new models of cooperation between indus­try, academia, and research institutions. We will use the opportunities presented by the EWCRT Project and the development of an integrated national computing network to boost strategic science and technol­ogy as well as to promote the high-quality construction and operation of national laboratories. We will urge the development of systems for fields of study and cultiva­tion of pools of talent, encourage Chinese universities and colleges to develop relevant disciplines, and strengthen research and innovation by Chinese research institutions on basic theories and technologies in the fields of electronics, communications, and computing. We will explore new research and development models, bolster the innovative integration of computing power with data and algorithms, and develop an experimental site of prototype technolo­gies for the integrated national computing network. We will select the best candidates to undertake research on key technologies, bring together the most powerful players in high-end technologies, and support indus­try, academia and research institutions in conducting research and development and experimenting with generic technologies in computing networks.

We will achieve green, low-carbon and high-quality development and implement the strategy on reaching peak carbon and carbon neutrality

Chinese modernization emphasizes harmonious coexistence between human­ity and nature, and green development is a salient feature of our integrated national computing network. We will strengthen the green and high-quality development of data centers and make the power utili­zation of new large and super-large data centers more efficient, locating such data centers within the data center clusters of national hub nodes. We will research and explore applications of green technolo­gies, fully utilize industry resources for innovation, and promote research on green and low-carbon key generic technologies, cutting-edge frontier technologies, and disruptive technologies along with related facilities and equipment. Based on this, we will apply intelligent energy management, promote energy conservation, and encour­age the use of liquid cooling and other new energy-saving technologies in data centers, and create green and low-carbon supply chains. We will coordinate the layout of computing and electrical power, promote the consumption of green energy sources such as wind and solar power and the zero-carbon development of data centers, and construct data center clusters with integrated power generation, transmis­sion, loading, and storage capabilities. We will also seek to connect computing power nodes to establish digital energy ecosystems that deeply integrate energy and data flows and continue to advance the development of new energy systems.


Liu Liehong is Member of the CPC Leader­ship Group, National Development and Reform Commission and also Commis­sioner and Secretary of the CPC Leadership Group, National Data Administration.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 6, 2024)