Did you know that you need a special permit called ICP license in order to host a website in China? Here we explain what it is and whether you need one.

The main benefit of having a website hosted in China is much faster loading time compared to the same site hosted out of the country. There is no question that faster loading speed can benefit your website from both user experience and SEO standpoints. What’s more, there is practically no chance that your site may get blocked in China for simply being unlucky enough to share a server with a blacklisted site (it does happen).

Unfortunately, due to the fact that internet in China is tightly controlled by the government, hosting a website in China requires obtaining a permit called ICP license that stands for Internet Content Provider or bei’an (备案) in Chinese. This license is issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to permit China-based websites to operate in China. The ICP licence numbers for Chinese websites can often be found on the bottom of the front webpage:

ICP license display

The ICP license can only be issued to Chinese registered companies. A few years ago there was a pilot program in Shanghai that allowed foreign companies to apply for ICP but it seems to be discontinued now. This means that if your business is only registered overseas, you won’t be eligible for ICP license and can’t get a local hosting.

Once your company registers a business entity in China, getting ICP license still can be quite a hassle but, fortunately, most local hosting providers will take care of that for you. There is also a grace period for new companies to obtain the ICP license after they have purchased a hosting package. However, once that period expires, a site without a valid ICP license will be taken down by the hosting company.

What if you do not plan registering in business in China? Can you still have a reasonably fast website for the mainland visitors? The answer is yes. There are some intermediate hosting solutions that involve servers in Hong Kong or Macau. China’s largest hosting provider Aliyun offers such solutions to international clients so do some of the native Hong Kong providers.

There are also CDN (content delivery networks) providers that can accelerate your site specifically for Chinese visitors. The most well known one, CloudFlare, has special server options for sites trying to reach Chinese audience.

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