What is an ICP?

The Chinese Government maintains strong control over websites, apps, and e-commerce within its border. One of their methods is through an ICP license.

ICP stands for Internet Content Provider. An ICP license is a state-issued license that allows “any content provider” to legally host and operate in China.

This requirement was instated in 2000 by the Telecommunications Regulations of the People’s Republic of China and articles 3 and 4 of Administrative Measures on Internet-Based Information Systems.

Chinese Ministry of Industry and Technology Website
Chinese Ministry of Industry and Technology Website

Who Needs an ICP

Articles 4 from the Administrative Measures on Internet-Based Information Systems clearly states:

No one shall engage in internet-based information services without having obtained a license (ICP) or having completed the filing-for-record procedures.

Simply stated, all sites hosted on mainland Chinese servers are required to have an ICP license before their site goes live.

Types of ICPs

There are generally two types of ICP licenses:

ICP Commercial License (ICP备案):

Article 3 Generally States: Commercial internet-based information services refer to compensatory services which provide information to or create web pages for online users through the Internet. Typically, this type of license is required for all e-commerce sites. It also applies if you plan to generate income of any type from the following activities: e-commerce, advertising, and any other type of business that involves a payment.

Bei’an (ICP Filing):

Article 3 Generally States: Non-commercial internet-based information services refer to non-compensatory services that supply, through the Internet, to online users information that is open to and shared by the general public. The Bei’an or ICP filing is a license that is required for all non-commercial websites that provide information to people. The Chinese population can access this type of site, but you won’t be able to sell anything directly online.

Why is an ICP Important

Benefits to getting an ICP

China's GPD
China's GPD

If you are reading this you probably already understand the benefit of growing your business to China and its $15.4B GDP.

Some of the benefits of having an ICP in place include:

  • Allows your company to host content legally, which minimizes the risk of being blocked and banned by the Chinese government.
  • With a hosting service like 21YunBox, your site will benefit from optimal performance and minimal issues with the Great Firewall of China.
  • You will be eligible to use the “.cn” and “.com.cn” domains, which helps SEO by increasing credibility.
  • You will be able to publish your app or game on all the Chinese app and game stores.
  • Popular Chinese search engines like Baidu give preference to sites hosted on Chinese Servers.
  • Helps you to gain trust and validation
  • You will enjoy a significant advantage over competitors who host outside of China.

Risks of Hosting Content in China Without an ICP

Some individuals might decide to “risk it” and operate in the “grey” area within China. The Chinese government is very serious when it comes to companies operating outside of their Rules and Regulations.

New York Times Article Headline
New York Times Article Headline

There have been many high-profile companies that have been blocked within the Great Firewall of China including Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Can I Avoid Getting an ICP

As we have mentioned, an ICP is required to host your site in mainland China.

However, you technically do not need an ICP if your site is not hosted in mainland China. Some companies choose to bypass the rules that apply in Mainland China by hosting their site from Hong Kong, China SAR. Hosting in Hong Kong is a temporary solution and has similar risks to hosting anywhere else outside of Great Firewall of China.

Before you host your site in Hong Kong or any places near Mainland China, you can quickly test if your website is fully blocked in China via tools China Firewall Test Tool, or just contact us to run the test for you for free.

It is always good to keep in mind when making these types of strategic decisions for your company, if your site is blocked it cannot be unblocked in the future. If you want a serious online presence in China, it is best to pursue the ICP route for long-term success.

How to Get an ICP

21YunBox offers support to help you get your ICP License. Below are the basic steps to proceed in applying for your ICP:

  • Step 1: Register a domain in China or transfer your domain to a domain provider in China
  • Step 2: Purchase your Hosting Plan
  • Step 3: Apply for the Bei’an ICP service number
  • Step 4: Resolve the domain name to the 21YunBox’s server in China
  • Step 5: Contact us and our team will further assist you.

Depending on your business and type of website, the process usually takes 3-6 weeks.

21YunBox’s Available Support

If you are looking to host your content in China or have questions about obtaining an ICP? Talk to an expert today.

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