Setting up a website for China’s audience? Here are 2 considerations that you may not be aware of.

In most countries, we tend to take for granted that setting up a website is a relatively straightforward endeavour. Need a new domain name? Easy. Just go to any domain name registrar and buy one online in a few minutes. Need hosting? No problem. There are lots of companies offering virtual hosting, cloud hosting or dedicated hosting, which can be set up in a matter of minutes.

However, if your website is intended for China’s audience, there are a few considerations that are unique to China.


Consideration #1: If the website is hosted outside of China, access to it will be slow in China.

Internet traffic coming in and out of China is routed through the “Great Firewall of China”. As a result, websites hosted outside of China will be slower to access in China. Likewise, websites hosted in China will suffer slower access in places outside of China.

Moreover, for a website hosted outside of China, access could be blocked if the Chinese authority decides to stop the traffic from certain IP blocks. Having said that, such occurrences are not so common unless the website contains banned content or the website IP falls within the IP block of other websites with banned content.

A slow-loading website will have negative impact on user experience. Chinese Internet users, like most Internet users globally, are impatient and may leave the website if it does not load in seconds.

Another implication of a slow website (and in general, websites hosted outside of China) is the adverse impact on the website search ranking on Chinese search engines. The subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in China will be covered in a separate article.

How do we overcome the website performance issue? The best solution will be to host the website in China, which brings us to consideration #2.


Consideration #2: To host a website in China, you will require an ICP

As the Internet is tightly controlled by the Chinese authorities, you will require a license, known as ICP (Internet Content Provider) in order to host a website in China.

To apply for an ICP license, you will need:

  1. China business license
  2. Domain name registered with a Chinese domain name registrar

If you already have a China business license but your website is currently hosted outside of China, it will be relatively straightforward to apply for an ICP. You can either:

  1. Transfer your domain name to a Chinese domain name registrar and migrate your website to a hosting provider in China.
  2. Purchase a new China domain name and migrate your website to a hosting provider in China.

If for some reason, you are unable to host the website in China, an alternative to improving the access speed is to employ a Content Delivery Network (CDN) in China. However, you will require an ICP to subscribe to a China-based CDN.

If you do not plan to register a business in China and hence are unable to obtain an ICP, there is another way to overcome the website performance issue. You can host your website with an international hosting provider in Hong Kong that also has data centres in China (such as Alibaba Cloud). Do note that this approach is a compromise as the access speed, although faster than if the website is hosted elsewhere, will not be as fast as compared to a the site being hosted in China.

In the next article, we will talk about the considerations for SEO in China. Stay tuned!