Web Hosting in China: What You Need to Know

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Web Hosting in China: What You Need to Know About ICP

As the Chinese domestic economy continues to grow, businesses are seeing an increased desire to promote and sell their products and services to China’s rapidly growing middle class. Since the early 2000’s a web presence has been the cornerstone for most consumer businesses and when it comes to maintaining a web presence in China, there are some proven and practical ways to get going.

This blog will give you a starting point for hosting web services in China, but we should start by explaining that many of the applications you will be required to submit are only available in Chinese characters. Fortunately, Alibaba Cloud has vast experience and knowledge on this topic and has published numerous materials to help international companies research and apply for ICP registration.

ICP Registration

All websites hosted in Mainland China are required to display their ICP registration in the footer of their website.

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Above is an example from the Michael Kors Chinese domain www.michaelkors.cn which displays both the PSB (to the left) and the ICP Filing (to the right).

The registration number includes a single character indicating the Chinese province or municipality where the license was issued, the category of ICP registration, and the registration number.

ICP registration applies to websites, not other online applications such as gaming apps, internal analytic systems, and other projects that are not hosted on a website domain. In these cases, it is best to check application-specific guidelines.

There are three main categories of ICP registration relevant to websites or e-commerce platforms hosted on a server or Content Delivery Network (CDN) in Mainland China: ICP Filing, ICP Commercial License and EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). It is important to first understand which ICP category will allow your company’s website to operate with its intended functionality. That being said, an ICP Filing is compulsory for all applicants.

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ICP Filing

ICP Commercial License

Organizations intending to operate at a commercial level must apply for the ICP Filing before applying for the ICP Commercial License. Once they receive the ICP Filing, they may operate their website, but only as an information platform: they cannot trade from the website until they receive their ICP Commercial License.

An ICP Commercial License can only be issued to applicants with a commercially registered business entity in Mainland China. Locally owned Chinese companies and Joint Ventures where the foreign partner has less than 50% ownership are eligible for an ICP Commercial License. Representative Offices (RO) are not eligible for an ICP Commercial License as the business license tied to the organization does not allow the holder to generate direct revenue in Mainland China. Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises (WFOEs) are also not eligible for an ICP Commercial License as there is a capital requirement for foreign applicants to have less than 50% ownership in the company.

EDI License

To obtain an EDI License, applicants must first apply for an ICP Filing. Like many regulations, the requirements can be tricky to navigate but there is help at hand. Eligibility for an EDI License is assessed on the organization’s ability to operate as an EDI business in Mainland China.

Pre-ICP Requirements

Can I Host Elsewhere?

That being said, plenty of web platforms do operate — but are not hosted — in Mainland China without ICP. There are numerous hosting options that can deliver bandwidth-intensive content to Mainland China at a reasonable speed. These include Singapore and less-regulated Hong Kong. The vast majority of businesses, especially those that wish to present their branding, corporate background, videos and imagery and showcase their business achievements, partners, services and products will find hosting in Hong Kong to serve the Chinese market, a very attractive option.

Issues arise when the website provides services such as online gaming, live-streaming or a high volume of visitors. In these cases, performance barriers may inhibit the growth of your business and a China-hosted website becomes a serious consideration.

Assistance from ICP Vendors

The Alibaba Cloud Marketplace provides software and services to Alibaba Cloud customers from a range of partner providers around the world. Alibaba Cloud Marketplace partner consultancies such as SINO-TONE can also provide an end-to-end service for establishing a business in China.


As we have seen, ICP requirements and eligibility can vary from region to region and from business to business so talking with Alibaba Cloud is an important first step to finding the right path.

If you need assistance or advice obtaining the right insight into how your business can function in Mainland China you can find out more at: https://www.alibabacloud.com/icp

This recorded webinar also provides a thorough overview of the issues and the process: https://resource.alibabacloud.com/webinar/live.htm?webinarId=5

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