It’s important to be aware that if you wish to operate a website within China, you will need what is known as an ICP licence and number. Without an ICP number, you risk your site’s content being blocked by internet service providers (ISPs).
- What is an ICP licence?
ICP stands for internet content provider. ICP licences must be issued for all websites that are hosted on servers located in mainland China.
There are two types of licence numbers:
- Commercial – websites involved in sales and distribution will need one of these.
- Non-commercial – for sites that provide information.
- Where is the licence number displayed?
A website’s ICP number is usually found at the bottom of the home page.
- Who issues the licences?
The licences are issued by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), usually at the provincial level through the local communication administration. When applying for an ICP, applicants will need to specify which China-based ISP they will be using – and it needs to be one that is on the MIIT database.
- What does a licence cost and how long does it take to get one?
Registration for an ICP is free, but some ISPs may charge a fee for their services.
The average time for obtaining a licence is around 20 days.
- What are the conditions for obtaining a licence?
The main condition is that you have a website hosted within China. It is also usually required that you do business in China as well – that is, you have a legal entity that is registered in China.
- What happens if my application is rejected?
Your application may be sent to the MIIT for further review, or you might be called upon to provide more documentation.
- What happens if I don’t get a licence?
As mentioned, you risk having your content blocked if you do not obtain the licence within a specified grace period.
- Are there any alternatives?
If you want to advertise on Baidu and implement tailored Asia SEM strategies, you can host your site outside of mainland China – in Australia or even from Hong Kong.
However, you need to be aware that this will slow down page loading times, as China-based sites are given preference.
Another option is to partner with a Chinese internet company which allows you to make use of their licence.
How to apply
Applications can be made on the MIIT website. At Digital Crew, we assist businesses in all aspects of marketing to China, and we can make it easier to obtain an ICP licence by looking after the process on your behalf. Contact our bilingual China marketing team for details!