Expanding to China? Laws you should know in 2023

China is home to 20% of the world’s total internet users and a $6+ trillion consumer market. Businesses around the world are increasingly trying to reach the 1.05+ billion internet users to capitalize on their growth in numbers and spending power.

However, providing a good user experience in China is not as easy as in other regions such as North America or Europe. Network congestion occurs frequently when traffic is entering or leaving mainland China. If your servers are located outside of the country, your users will likely experience noticeable latency.

To minimize latency and provide a great user experience, serving content from within China is the best solution. In order to host your website in China, however, you must navigate through the laws and regulations that govern web content in the country.

Below, we’ve gathered the five most relevant laws you should know about.


What are the laws that govern web content in China?

Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China – requires network operators to store select data in China and let authorities spot check the company’s network operations

Telecommunications Regulations of the People’s Republic of China – provides the general regulations on domestic telecommunication services that govern the licensing, provision, security, and construction of facilities for these services in China

Measures for the Administration of Telecommunications Business Licensing – these measures further expand on the licensing regulations set forth in the Telecommunications Regulations described above

Data Security Law – added in 2021, this law requires the localization of data generated in China, and prohibits such data from being sent abroad before the completion of a security self-assessment

Personal Information Protection Law – added in 2021, requires any party that processes personal information outside of China to establish a dedicated entity or appointed representative within China to be responsible for matters regarding the protection of personal information


What is an ICP and why is it important?

To be compliant with the cybersecurity and internet safety regulations outlined by the Chinese government above, all websites that are hosted in China must obtain an Internet Content Provider (ICP) number and display it on the home page.

The ICP number is a state-issued permit that lets your business host its website on a server in China. Without an ICP number, your website risks being blocked or even shut down for good by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

There are two types of ICP numbers issued by the Chinese government: ICP Filing and ICP License.

An ICP Filing is strictly for non-commercial use, such as nonprofits and websites that are primarily meant to educate or share information. Commercial sites, including those that generate income through ecommerce or displaying advertisements, must obtain an ICP License.

If you don’t plan to host your website in China, you don’t need to apply for an ICP number. As long as your content doesn’t violate any laws, the government should not act against your website.

Keep in mind, however, that content hosted in places geographically distant from users takes longer to deliver, which means higher latency and a poorer user experience overall. If your business intends to serve users in China, it’s critical to obtain the appropriate ICP number so that you can host your website on servers within the country to ensure a good user experience.

Hosting your website in China can also help you rank higher on popular Chinese search engines like Baidu, which inherently favors Chinese-hosted sites to foreign ones.


Who can apply for an ICP?

ICP Filing:

  • Any company with a Chinese business license in China, such as a joint venture, wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE), or a Chinese domestic company

ICP License:

  • Chinese-owned businesses with a Chinese business license
  • Joint ventures where Chinese ownership is 51% or greater

Foreign-owned businesses without a Chinese business license are not eligible for an ICP number.



How do I apply for an ICP?

Although the process for application will vary between provinces in China, the steps generally include:

Registering a domain name in China and purchasing hosting services from a provider approved by the MIIT

Submitting your verification documents to your Chinese hosting provider to get your Bei’an service number, also called an ICP service number, which will be bound to the server and domain you’ve registered

Registering on the ICP Management System

Logging into the ICP Management System to provide requested information such as your Bei’an number, your domain name, the province/district you’re registering from, the type of ICP number you’re applying for, and so on

Submitting your documents for approval

Waiting for approval by the MIIT, which takes up to 6 weeks


Anything else I should know?

Once you’ve found a trustworthy provider to help you expand your operations to China, they will ask you to sign a Letter of Acceptance to show that you agree to abide by all the country’s laws, rules, and regulations. You will also be asked to provide information such as your company name, contact name, legal representative name, ICP service number, and other details that ensure your identity and the legitimacy of your business website.

The information you provide will be used to verify the “five truths,” which shows the Chinese government that your business will have real users, real demand, a real network topology, a real address, and real equipment.

Lastly, some providers may also require you to fill out a Cybersecurity Form that indicates your website will not be used for any illegal or nefarious activities while on Chinese telecommunication networks.


Succeed in China with Zenlayer

We have a decade of experience helping businesses successfully expand into China with our expertise in cross-border network solutions. With 70+ nodes in China in China, direct connections to public clouds, and premium internet routes into/out of China, we can help you quickly improve digital experiences for your China-based users.

Check out our China solution or contact a Zenlayer solution expert to learn more.


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