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Establishing a Web Presence in China

Posted by Patrick Wheeler on January 21, 2013

So, it’s been a while since my last post here, and now I find myself in a city with the tastiest Döner in the world and most hipsters per square mile, Berlin. For the last 9 months I’ve been heading a team building a cross-media mobile content platform in China focused on bringing western music, apps and ebooks to the Chinese market. It’s certainly kept me busy, and a times tending towards the edge of insanity but in particular setting up the infrastructure in China has been “challenging” to say the least, and we have learnt much on our journey.

To a large extent these challenges related more to navigating the seemingly complex legislation/regulation connected to setting up our on servers and site in China as opposed to any technical nuances. Thankfully we had the benefit of working with an exceptional Chinese development partner (Smartions in Suzhou) to help guide us through the many administrate requirements related to establishing an eCommerce presence in China. So without going into the specifics of our platform setup or the more tedious details, I thought it may be of benefit to provide an overview of the basic regulatory requirements and application process to others also considering a web presence in China.

2012-07-11 19.08.48The ICP Bei certificate

In order to publish a web site in China, it is essential that you your identity be verified through the ‘Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’. The result of such verification, if passed, is called the ICP (Internet Content Provider) Bei certificate (ICP备in Chinese).

The ICP Bei certificate is the very basic cert which must be acquired before ANY site is published, and it is only for basic web sites such as simple company site. If you are building a site which falls under the description of a ‘Non Basic’ site, which the Chinese authorities broadly define as news, e-commerce etc, further certificates will be required. I hope to post more on these certificates later.

The Exception: It should be noted that you don’t have to apply for any of the ICP certificates if your site is hosted on servers which are located outside of the China. However, there are chances that access to your site from within the country might get blocked every so often by the country’s firewall.

An ICP Bei certificate number looks like this:

bei

It normally starts from an abbreviation of the province where the ICP is given (‘鲁’ in this example is the Shandong province in China), followed by the ‘ICP备’ text and then your ICP number.


The Application Process

In order to get an ICP certificate, the following documents are required:

  1. Domain name and the Certificate of Generic Top Level Domain Name (provided by the domain name provider).
  2. Site Manager’s personal information, which must include:
    • ID (Chinese citizen ID card) or passport.
    • Contact number. (Very important because the password for the ICP cert will be sent to this number).
    • Email Address.
    • Manager’s photograph.
  3. Company’s owner’s ID.
  4. Company certificate issued by the ‘Administration for Industry & Commerce’.
  5. Agreement between the owner company of the site and the site manager.
  6. Completion of basic information forms and agreements provided by the ‘Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’.

All the above documents need to be stamped with the official company stamp and original copy of these documents might be required.

Where to Apply

The application could be done either online or in person. To apply online, visit ICP/IP registration system (only available in Chinese language), follow the steps and fill in appropriate information.

Once the application is accepted, the approval process normally takes less than 20 days depending the province the application is handed in and the content your site is providing.

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