Western media was abuzz yesterday with reports – citing an English-language story on the website of the official People's Daily newspaper – that China plans to create a set of Chinese-language domain names as part of a bid to split itself off from the internet. There was just one problem: the story wasn't true.

The CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center) has had a system of three Chinese-character domain names in place since 2002. The domain names, which appear to be top-level domain names, actually operate under the .cn top-level domain name, which is also administered by CNNIC and is part of the domain-name system managed by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

A CNNIC spokeswoman yesterday confirmed that there are no new additions to the available Chinese-character domain names and said no major changes are planned for how China administers the internet. "We have no intention to create a new root server or split off from the internet," she said.

Tina Dam, ICANN's chief generic top-level domain registry liaison, also sought to set the record straight yesterday, saying the People's Daily report may have resulted from a misunderstanding of work already in progress that involves second-level domains, such as the Chinese-character domain names already in use in China.

The People's Daily report covered a brief announcement posted online by China's MII (Ministry of Information Industry) on 24 February. That announcement, entitled 'MII announcement regarding adjustments to the Chinese domain name system', heralded the creation of a .mil second-level domain under .cn.

The MII announcement was accompanied by the revised regulations outlining the Chinese domain-name system, including details of the three previously announced Chinese-character domain names. The revised regulations took effect on 1 March.

Although the People's Daily report mentioned these details, it mistakenly described the existing Chinese-character domain names as being outside the internet domain-name system managed by ICANN.