China's IT infrastructure
Websites that carry content with server locations outside of China encounter speed & accessibility difficulties. The “Great Firewall of China (GFW)” controls and slows down the loading speed of the website. One must also be aware that the Chinese IT infrastructure is primarily aimed at Chinese. As a result, Internet services and platforms in China are also optimized from a user and search engine perspective under the legal framework.
Websites hosted outside of China are therefore either only available with very long loading times or even completely blocked. To enable uncomplicated, fast use for Chinese users, the following 2 factors must be taken into account:
1. Hosting in China
In order to provide an optimal user experience, website content must be hosted in China. For this, a company needs a business license and a registered office in China in order to apply for an “Internet Content Provider (ICP) Filing” with the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Websites without a valid ICP filing, or where the associated ICP number is not visible, will be blocked. Therefore, all websites hosted in China have such an ICP number and place it visibly in the footer.
1.2 The difference between ICP Filing and ICP License
ICP Filing, or ICP Entry, is the first level of ICP certification and must be applied for all websites. Once a company holds a valid ICP Filing, it is allowed to host a purely informal website on Mainland China servers.
A commercial ICP license extends the ICP Filing and allows commercial websites such as online stores to be hosted on a Mainland China server.
Which companies benefit from the purchase?
Especially information and resource-intensive websites benefit by acquiring the ICP license and hosting on Mainland China, because the fast loading speed and stable website generates more traffic and results in a higher ranking in search engine results pages, such as Baidu, sm.cn and 360.
Some market-specific sales platforms, such as 1688.com (Chinese equivalent of Alibaba.com) even require an ICP license.
2. Alternatives to direct hosting in China
Companies that do not want to go through the extensive process of acquiring an ICP often choose to host their Chinese website in Hong Kong or Singapore. While Hong Kong and also Singapore are outside the GFW, logistically they are the closest possible hosting options without an ICP license. Therefore, some companies often assume that users from Mainland China can access these sites faster. However, this is wrong! The logistical proximity to the country does not reduce the data processing speed inside the firewall.
This problem has been particularly addressed by the German hosting company “Weber Cloud“. With the help of a direct connection that runs from Germany to China, it is possible for Weber Hosting customers to get their Chinese-language website through the Chinese firewall faster.
If your website is a central component of your digital marketing strategy for the Chinese market, the choice of hosting should be carefully considered. Read more about the fundamental digital marketing pillars in our free whitepaper:
eTOC white paper “China Digital Marketing Full Guide” for free download: