What Is the ICP License in China and How To Get One

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Providing reliable online service inside China is crucial to foreign companies entering the China market. Addressing packet loss and latency over unreliable public Internet is a big challenge.

Fulfilling local regulatory requirements is another key requirement. Government regulation in China mandates publishing web-based service with a top-level domain name that either has ICP filing (for non-commercial web services) or ICP license (for commercial web services) approved by Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Obtaining ICP approval for an existing top-level domain name registered outside of China can be very difficult. It’s often easier to register a new domain name instead and get ICP approval. But using a different domain name to publishing service would require modification to the existing service to ensure all URLs are consistent with the new domain name, which can be challenging as well.

The general solution presented in this document helps customers to:

  1. Leverage existing service outside of China, either hosted on-premises or in public cloud
  2. Solve network quality issues with Alibaba Cloud CEN and proxy servers
  3. Realize domain name consistency with on-the-fly domain name conversion
  4. Achieve great performance by leveraging Alibaba Cloud CDN and DCDN
    ICP and related process are out of the scope of this document.

The main components of the solution are:

  1. Alibaba Cloud DNS service hosting the new domain name “example.cn”
  2. Two Alibaba Cloud VPCs, one in Shanghai, one in US East. Both VPCs are attached to a Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN), establishing reliable, low latency, private connection between Shanghai and US East. Instructions for CEN configuration can be found at https://www.alibabacloud.com/help/doc-detail/65885.htm
  3. Deploy ECS instance in Shanghai VPC, running HAProxy (www.haproxy.org) in TCP mode, serving user requests for example.cn at a public IP (or Elastic IP). All user requests are then proxied to the ECS instance running Nginx in US East VPC via CEN.
  4. Deploy ECS instance in US East VPC, running Nginx. It is important to choose a region that is geographically close to where the existing service is hosted (US East in this example) to minimize latency over public Internet. Configure Nginx proxy_pass and sub_filter to convert the domain part of the requests on the fly, ie. from “example.cn” to “example.com”, so that all HTTPS requests to example.cn from users in China are converted to example.com and proxied to the origin web server in US East via public Internet. The URLs in the returned HTML are converted back to example.cn and forwarded to users in China via HAProxy. The Nginx server needs to have ngx_http_proxy_module and ngx_http_sub_module loaded to perform the conversion.

You can have more details on A General Solution for Publishing Web-Based Services Hosted Overseas in China

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It is critical to note that if you choose to host in Asia, Mainland China, you need to complete the real-name verification and apply for an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license.

Real-name verification and ICP license are not required for instances launched in Hong Kong or any other region outside Mainland China. After you create an instance, you cannot change its region and zone.

If you are creating multiple instances for an application that requires lower network latency, it is recommended to create the instances in the same zone. Additionally, if your application demands higher provisions for disaster recovery, it is recommended to create the instances in different zones of one region. Take note that if you don’t specify a zone, the instance will be put in a Random zone for the selected region.

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By default, the basic version of the Server Guard is selected and it is recommended that you leave the option selected. It’s a free built-in security feature that provides Trojan detection, abnormal login warnings, brute-force blocking and cracking interception.

Furthermore, the ECS supports both, automatic renewal and manual renewal. By default, auto-renew is pre-selected to ensure that your ECS instance gets automatically renewed at the same discounted price until you cancel it.

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So once the host is selected you need a licence. There are two types: an ICP filing and an ICP licence. It is hard to pin down an exact definition but broadly speaking you will need an ‘ICP filing’ to show any content and as soon as you add transactions (a payment gateway for example) then you will need to upgrade to an ‘ICP licence’. Either way the ICP filing is a must.

This can all be done online via an interface in the Alibaba Cloud portal. It needs to be completed in Chinese and you will need your aforementioned company registration documents to complete the process. The exact process and rules vary from province to province but it is broadly similar.

To apply you will need a Chinese speaker, someone on the ground in China with a local telephone number during the process, a host (Alibaba Cloud) with the real name registration process completed (simply uploading your company docs), and you will also need a public IP on a Chinese server available for them to check during the process (you should not put any content on this server whilst doing the ICP filing).

Alibaba Cloud: A Gateway to China

In this article, you can learn how Alibaba Cloud is strategically positioned as your cloud provider in China especially now having partnered with Xebia.

Using a Chinese cloud provider makes the difference between success and total market failure. With dedicated fiber networks from mainland China to the rest of the world, they ensure the low-latency delivery of internet traffic unaffected by the firewall. As your first experiment in cloud, you can use Alibaba Cloud’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) to cache product detail pages and images in China. These are created locally and hosted in an overseas Alibaba Cloud region such as Frankfurt. When a Chinese consumer accesses the page, its content is fetched from Frankfurt over Alibaba Cloud’s unfiltered backbone, a much faster process than having the user access your website over the public internet. The content is then cached in China for subsequent page views.

Sub-second page loads ensure that no sales are lost due to technical slowness — leading to higher conversion rates and greater sales, freeing businesses to focus on core activities such as product market optimization. Worth noting here is that a different system governs online content cached or hosted within China. While not subject to the firewall, a special permit called an ICP license is required to publish online under a domain name. Obtaining such licenses can be difficult, but experienced companies can help to make the process be with considerably less hassle.

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Apply for ICP filing as a foreign enterprise

If an enterprise outside mainland China wants to build a website in mainland China and hosts the website on an instance located in mainland China, the enterprise needs to apply for an Internet Content Provider (ICP) filing for the website. This topic describes the ICP filing requirements for foreign enterprises.

You can apply for ICP filing in Alibaba Cloud ICP Filing System on a PC or in the Alibaba Cloud app. Before you apply for ICP filing, note the following instructions.

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