If you are researching whether ICP is needed for China, you might find some information online that tell you ICP is not needed, but they didn’t tell you the complete story, hope this post gives you a complete picture to understand what could go wrong if you don’t have an ICP.
Loading fast in China is not the only factor matters
If your site doesn’t load in China, and you are looking for solutions that give you an edge to load fast in China. If you did a google lookup, you probably find solutions that tell you to host your website on near-China content delivery networks (CDN).
For example, if I visit the Shopify website from Shanghai, my browser will access the page content from a server or a CDN node in Chicago. So you can tell how “far” away I’m getting the information from, which is definitely “slow”.
Also, if you are interested to run some tests yourself, you can use tools like https://check-host.net to find out where the page content is serving you from.
However, speed is just one-half of the story. When running a business, stability is another half of the story. The solutions you could find on Google rarely talk about it.
Before I dive in, let’s look at some brands you know and see if their websites have ICP or not for China, I will come back and tell you why ICP gives you the stability of your business presence.
Serious online presence in China, ICP is a must
Yes, Nike has ICP for China (Quick tip, the ICP no is located at the bottom of the page).
Yes, Tesla has ICP for China. They also have a separate domain for China. Noted that it’s tesla.cn, not tesla.com
When people in China search “Tesla” on Baidu (72% market shared for China as of May 2021), tesla.cn is ranked no. 1, and we can expect most of the traffic will land on tesla.cn. This means tesla.cn is the site people in China go to not tesla.com
Yes, Hilton has ICP for China, and their websites on Baidu also sends traffic to their .cn domain, not .com
Hopefully, by now you see these companies all have ICP on their Chinese website. Why is that? Can they just host their website on near-China CDN instead? The answer is no because these companies are serious about their online presence in China. And in fact, hosting it in near-China servers or CDNs will put them at risk and damage their brand image in China.
Isn’t that serious?
Maybe a better way to describe it would be:
if you are doing business in China, and hosting your website, and collecting users’ information outside of China, it already violates Article 37 of the Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China.
If you are curious, let’s take a quick look at what Article 37 states, here is the original version in Chinese:
Google translated english version:
The personal information and important data collected and generated by the operators of critical information infrastructures within the territory of the People’s Republic of China shall be stored in the territory. If it is necessary to provide it overseas due to business needs, the security assessment shall be conducted following the measures formulated by the national cyberspace administration department in conjunction with the relevant departments of the State Council; if there are other provisions in laws and administrative regulations, the provisions shall be followed.”
Simply put, any user information collected in China should stay in servers or databases in China.
Then, why my websites still operating “ok” in China?
I’m not trying to scare anyone, but in fact, I’m writing this post to warn the missing aspect of why ICP is a must.
If you want a serious online presence in China, get an ICP.
Some businesses take a chance and host their website outside China. They may hope that their website does not get blocked. They may even try to carefully avert detection by avoiding any politically sensitive keywords and are not hosted on blocked domains.
However, if their site later does get blocked, it cannot be unblocked in the future.
It is also important to understand that even if you have an ICP, that is not a guarantee that your website will not be blocked.
Having an ICP merely means that you are approved to host your website on a mainland Chinese server, not that your site will be visible or will not be blocked.
Some businesses choose to host their Chinese website in Hong Kong to avoid the rules that apply to mainland China sites. There are different rules for Hong Kong than for mainland China.
If you do not acquire an ICP when you need one, you will not be able to purchase hosting in mainland China. All hosts are required to ask for an ICP license before they can release server credentials to a business.
If you defy the laws in China, your site can be permanently blocked and you will have no right to appeal or alter this decision.