The C9 League was established by the Chinese central government on May 4, 1998 with the goal of advancing the Chinese higher education system. The establishment of the C9 League was a part of the Chinese central government's Project 985. In the first phase, the nine universities were selected and allocated funding for an initial period of three years. On October 10, 2009, these nine universities made up the C9 League.
The aim of the C9 is to serve as a network of elite universities to improve education and research in China. More importantly, they have committed themselves to world-class excellence. The central government directs special resources to the C9 League to ensure that they maintain their status as world class universities. Other universities outside the C9 League designated by the central government with the goal of reaching world class include National University of Defense Technology, Renmin University of China, and Wuhan University.