Website hosting in China

Website Hosting in China: How Does It Work? [Full Guide]

The implementation of the Great Firewall policy has made website localization essential for foreign brands entering Mainland China. One of the pivotal aspects of this process involves hosting your website locally.

Choosing the right hosting solution can make or break your website’s performance, especially when being viewed by potential Chinese customers.

From its loading speed to search engine visibility, website hosting in China presents many advantages for any brand. Read along as we guide you through every step of the way and provide tips on navigating these challenges.


Can I host a website in China?

Yes, foreign businesses are allowed to host a website in China. However, this process requires more than selecting a local hosting provider or buying a local domain.

A foreign company must first establish a legal entity in China by obtaining a local business license to host locally. You’ll also need an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

If you already have a website with a .cn domain name hosted outside of China, you have the option to apply for an ICP license. Through this, you’ll be able to improve the site’s accessibility and performance for local users, even if the hosting remains international.


China hosting


The ICP filing process is designed to align all web content with China’s regulatory framework, ensuring that digital offerings adhere to local laws, advertising guidelines, and cultural expectations.

Working with local experts or service providers specializing in the Chinese digital ecosystem is advisable to ensure complete compliance and optimize the website’s domestic accessibility.


Why is China Web Hosting advantageous for your brand?

●      Increased Visibility in Chinese Search Engines

Major search engines in China often favor content from a Chinese website hosted locally over the ones with overseas servers. Besides faster loading times, possessing an ICP license proves that a business complies with local regulations.

It signals to search engines like Baidu that your site is legitimate and reliable, potentially boosting your visibility in the platform’s search results.

Generally speaking, hosting a website in China gives most businesses an edge over other foreign competitors because of its local IP address. It boosts your site’s domestic significance, allowing search engines to identify your content as specifically geared towards the Chinese market.

However, it’s worth noting that you’ll still need to execute other SEO strategies to improve your SERP ranking, like adding a translation service, optimizing content with industry-related search terms, and getting credible backlinks.


MSD manuals Baidu SEO

SDG’s collaboration with MSD: Baidu SEO optimization


●      Website Load-Speed Difference

The Chinese market has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world. In 2023, the country launched a network with a 1.2 terabit per second link. Having said that, an average consumer in China expects your website to load within two seconds.

Foreign websites hosted overseas load slower compared to localized ones. The difference can range from five to ten seconds. While that may seem like a short time, it can affect your site’s conversion rates in a fast-paced market like China.

As China’s leading search engine with over 663 million users, it’s also important to note that Baidu factors your website speed when it comes to search engine rankings. So, if you want to top its SERP, local hosting is a step you can’t skip.

Besides hosting a website in China, you can consider Content Delivery Network integration to improve your site’s loading speed.

However, you can only obtain it by applying for an ICP license because it’s proof that you’re a legal entity with enough qualifications and requirements to host content within the local digital landscape.


●      Lower Censorship Risks

Many foreign brands stepping into the Chinese market might think that simply steering clear of illegal or politically sensitive topics is enough to keep their website running smoothly. However, there’s a bit more to it than that.

When you host a site abroad, it could end up on the same server as a previously blocked website. Being on a blacklisted server can increase the possibility of getting your “innocent” site banned. Such risks can be avoided when you choose to launch internally hosted websites.

The issue with overseas hosting is sometimes you might only realize your website is in jeopardy once it’s too late. On the other hand, web hosting in China benefits from the vigilant eye of local ISPs.


Image by vectorjuice on Freepik


●      Compliance with Local Regulations

As you know, the Chinese government has stringent laws when it comes to the country’s digital landscape. By hosting in China and obtaining an ICP license, you’re already midway in complying with these regulations.

ICP licenses not only legitimize your online presence within the local market but also protect your business from potential legal issues that could arise from non-compliance.


●      Accessibility in WeChat

WeChat is often the gateway to internet browsing in Mainland China, with over one billion Chinese citizens using its in-app features monthly. And since social search is becoming a trend in this platform, it opens an opportunity to redirect your target audience to your website.

The platform allows access to website links, regardless of whether the domain is hosted locally or not. However, the advantage of local web hosting meant that WeChat users clicking through to your site would experience faster loading times, which could lead to more potential sales conversions.


How to Host a Website in China: Step-by-Step Guide

1.    Choosing a Local Domain Name Provider

If you want to get a Chinese domain name, the best options come from domain providers based in China. We’re talking about the big industry players like Alibaba Cloud and Huawei Cloud, among others.

When choosing a domain name, remember to find a provider officially registered with the Ministry in China. This process is crucial because it streamlines the process of obtaining an ICP license.

Foreign entities or individuals who initially bought their domain through an overseas provider must transfer it to a Chinese registrar. The process will involve additional steps, such as Real Name Validation.


Rioja responsive website for wine market China

Rioja Wine’s Chinese website, with .cn domain name and hosted in China


2.    Setting Up Your Website With a Hosting Service

Once you decide on your domain name, setting up your website on a Chinese server is the next step. Your selected hosting service should be able to accommodate your site’s traffic and storage needs while ensuring optimal performance for users in China.

It’s also crucial to configure your website based on the updated Chinese regulations, including data privacy and content censorship laws.

Technical optimization for Chinese search engines like Baidu should also be a priority. As previously mentioned, the process includes posting local language content, ensuring mobile optimization, and implementing SEO best practices tailored to the Chinese market.

At this stage of website configuration, some foreign brands often consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) within China to improve their site speed and reliability.


3.    Applying for an ICP License

The ICP license you can acquire from the government comes in two categories. For non-commercial websites, you can apply for an ICP Filing. It means all your content is informational, and you won’t directly sell in this digital channel.

On the other hand, if you’re incorporating e-commerce on your brand’s website, you’ll need to apply for a Commercial ICP license on top of the previous one.


China SEO ICP number in website's footer

Our client Rioja Wine’s website with its ICP License


Besides e-commerce integration, an ICP commercial license enables your website to receive payments from local digital wallet services like WeChat Pay and Alipay.  You’ll also need it for launching advertising campaigns online.


4.    Integrating with the Chinese Digital Ecosystem

After ICP filing and local web hosting, the next step you should take is to integrate your site into China’s digital ecosystem. It means you should establish a presence on local social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat.

These apps are pivotal in driving traffic to your website and engaging with the Chinese audience. Try to tailor your content and marketing strategies to fit these platforms so that they can significantly enhance your brand’s online presence.


China social media and social commerce landscape


Types of Web Hosting in China

●     International Content Delivery Network (CDN) Hosting

Most successful global brands in the local market often utilize an international Content Delivery Network (CDN) that operates both inside and outside Mainland China. This option allows for a seamless web experience for users globally and locally.

If you’re unfamiliar with this process, it’s best to seek help from an industry expert or agency offering CDN solutions catering to both markets. The cost of these services may vary as some packages include extras like a content management system (CMS) and other functionalities.

If your site uses standard tracking plugins like Google Adwords, Facebook pixels, or Google Fonts, they may drag down your website’s loading times in China. You may need to tweak some site settings and comply with the local web compliance standards to avoid experiencing this problem.



●     Launching Two Websites

At first glance, maintaining two separate websites for the global and local markets may seem like a lot of work. However, this strategy often comes in handy for businesses aiming to connect with diverse audiences.

With the unique preferences of Chinese consumers, your local website will likely differ drastically in design and functionality from its global counterpart. Domestic sites often lean towards minimalistic designs included within a single landing page and complete with QR codes for direct customer service.

Setting up a micro-site tailored for China can be a swift and cost-effective process. You can build the site on a CMS for easy integration with your foreign website or other marketing tools.


●     Mirror Hosting Servers Close to Mainland China

The proximity of a mirror server to your Chinese audience means faster load times and reduced latency. It boosts the overall user experience, making your site more appealing to local visitors.

If you’re using a mirror server outside China but not hosting content directly within, the ICP license becomes optional. However, it’s important to remember that this setup does not cancel the risks that come from the Great Firewall policy.

Even with a local CDN, content hosted on servers outside China can’t escape the policy’s scrutiny and potential blocking.


localize your website for China


Do you really need a website hosted in Mainland China?

Technically speaking, you’re not obligated to have a website hosted in Mainland China. You could simply add a Chinese version to your existing site, translate your content, and call it a day.

However, if your main market is Chinese consumers, you may need to rethink your approach. Even if you decide to host in nearby places like Hong Kong for faster access, it doesn’t mean you can escape the unpredictability of China’s Great Firewall. There’s always that lingering risk of being blocked entirely in the country’s digital landscape, often without warning.

While skipping on local hosting might seem more accessible or more cost-effective initially, it’s a bit of a gamble. You’re trading off potential speed and a solid local presence in the Chinese digital space for a workaround that might not be as smooth or reliable as you’d hope.


Quick Q&A

How do I make my website accessible in China?

To make your website accessible in China, you can host it within the country or with a CDN that has a local node to ensure fast loading times. You’ll also need to comply with Chinese internet regulations, like acquiring an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license. This mandatory requirement involves submitting documentation and information to the Chinese government for review and approval.

Can I use .com in China?

Yes, you can use a .com domain in China. Along with .cn, it’s the most popular domain extension locally. In the Chinese SEO market, having a .com or .cn does not affect your SERP ranking. However, it’s not uncommon for some local consumers to prefer clicking website links with domestic extensions like .cn.

Can I Host a .CN domain outside China?

Yes, you can host a .cn domain outside China. In May 2012, China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) changed its domain name registration and web hosting policy, allowing foreign individuals and businesses to avail of these local services.


Ready To Dominate The Chinese Digital Landscape? Get In Touch With Us Today!

Website hosting in China is a decision that mainly depends on your business goals, resources, and company’s infrastructure. It’s a complex process that requires a deep understanding of the country’s unique digital ecosystem.

At Sekkei Digital Group, our team understands the specific technicalities of local web hosting in China. With our extensive industry experience, we offer the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential and become a leading entity in your target market.


Sekkei Digital Group Services


From purchasing a local domain name to obtaining an ICP license and optimizing your website, we have all the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let us help you navigate the intricacies of China’s business scene.


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