Developing a website or application for China? Follow the latest ICP regulations

January 24, 2023
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The importance of having a digital presence in China has only continued to grow. In a country that aspires to completely digitize all governance and daily life systems by 2030, not having even a minimal online presence in China, can be interpreted as unprofessional and will keep you out of the game. Your potential clients will look for you online, so as potential employees and partners.

Starting with a website or an official account on one of the social media platforms, you must have competent content translated professionally and correctly into Chinese.  At least, have Chinese subtitles or translation.

To develop an app or website and store it on Chinese servers, you will have to apply for an ICP (Internet Content Provider) and receive an ICP registration number. To do so, you must have a local business license and provide information about a local contact person.

The registration process can take up to two months, the time varies and depends not only on Chinese authorities but on your team’s dedication to the process. All of this will not come as a surprise for those already doing business in China, but some new updates in the process of ICP filling and ICP license that are important to note:

ICP Filling vs. ICP License

ICP filing is the most common permit that will allow you to run an informative website on Chinese servers. Having this permit will allow you to update your website with content on a regular basis.

Important – if you intend to use this website to obtain personal information for marketing purposes, you should be aware of the (2021) Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) and check that you are working within its guidelines.

The ICP filling registration number will contain a number with Chinese characters indicating the following:

ICP license allows you to do all the above, and more – essentially accept online payments, These licenses are rarely given to Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises (WFOE), and an application is most likely to be denied.

If you are planning on starting a business in China and selling your product online, we recommend relying on local E-commerce platforms. In China, most consumers are used to large online shopping platforms like Alibaba, Tencent, and others. Your potential clients are already using these websites saving you significant time and money you would have invested in marketing your own platform or product.

The ICP license number will contain the following:

Until recently an ICP license did not include online payments, and there was a separate certification for it. The recent update differentiating between an ICP filing and an ICP license was established for this use.

From this point on, we will only be referring to the ICP filing process. If you need guidance with ICP License application, establishing an online store, or incorporating Alipay or WeChat Pay on your website, you can contact us here.

Receiving Your ICP Number and Registration

Obtaining an ICP Filing Number

The first step to getting your ICP number is to apply through your hosting account for registration (most companies use Aliyun or AWS China as hosts). This is a straightforward process that usually runs fast. After that, gather all necessary documents to provide proof of your company’s business registration and scope, online activities, as well as identification of the person who will be the contact point in China for any issues with the website. Only after you receive your ICP registration number will you be able to move on to the next step.

Registering Your Domain

Your next step is registering your domain on the “Beian System”( Gong’an Bei’an 公安联网备案) with the Chinese authorities. You will have to add an ‘about us’ page in Chinese, a local address, and the new ICP number you received. From now on that number will have to be shown on your website’s footer. This step requires your ICP contact person’s information along with another contact for backup.

ICP Contact Person – Legal Liability

The contact person you provide for registering the ICP Filing should not be random. It should be a trustworthy team member, from your content or marketing team. If you do not have such an employee in China, then at least choose someone that is involved in your operations.

This is important and should be taken seriously. The contact person’s job is not only to communicate with the authorities, legal liabilities come with the title. The most apparent is that they are legally responsible for all the content published on your website, and if the authorities find an issue they might be called in for questioning. The same goes for the contact person of your official WeChat account and other social media platforms.

In the same way, your accountant is liable for information sent to the tax bureau, your ICP contact is responsible for your online presence in China.

Business Scope & Your Website

In China, you are not allowed to share content for a service or product that are not in your listed business. If you share content outside of the scope you submitted when filing for your ICP, then you can expect authorities to either give you a warning or cancel your ICP Filing completely. This issue has been given significance by authorities in the last two years, as the regulations surrounding ICP have gotten tighter.

China Advertisement Law

Regulating advertising activities, China’s Advertising Law aims to protect the rights and interests of consumers and promote fair competition in the market.

Thinking that this will not concern your business is incorrect. Even if you are not an advertising agency, the law still applies to you, as it regards any online content published for marketing in China. Sharing content that might seem confusing or misleading may be enough for you to get sued.

We recommend your content and marketing department learn about the ins and outs of China’s Advertisement Law. Repercussions from violating the law can be unpleasant, including fines or losing the ICP completely. The authorities take any complaint seriously and check it thoroughly, delaying your business operation and not to mention harming your image.

Need assistance registering to receive an ICP? Contact us and we will get back to you.

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Q&A about B2B Marketing Localization in China

How can I host a website in China?

First of all, you will need to apply for an ICP. The process could take between 10 days to 2 months and includes a review by several local authorities. You will also need to provide a local business license and other relevant documents.

Which WeChat business/official account should I open?

There are two main WeChat official accounts for businesses: subscription account or service account. Choose based on how often you want to publish content and the account’s visibility on the WeChat chat list. Read more here: Which WeChat Corporate Account Best Fits Your Business Needs?

How do I open an official WeChat account?

Opening an official WeChat account requires a local business license and details of a local contact person. This supports your marketing efforts in China.