China is bound to become the largest economy in the world, and companies of all sizes from around the world have or are planning to sell their products or offer their services to Chinese consumers and businesses. The Great Firewall severely restricts access to overseas websites in China, either by blocking them, or by making the access speed extremely slow. In order to provide the best user experience to Chinese users visiting their websites, overseas companies therefore would preferably host their websites within the firewall, on a mainland China server.
The problem in doing so is the ICP license requirement which the Chinese government has put in place and basically restricts hosting in China to companies incorporated within the country.
What options are there to host your contents in China?
First, you can consider teaming up with a Chinese company which will serve as your marketing partner in China. The ICP license can be applied under their name which allows you to host your website in China. Make sure to keep control over the domain name you have registered for this venture, to prevent it to be stolen by the partner.
Second, if you have a Chinese individual which you trust, you can apply for a personal ICP license under their personal name. This option is not 100% legit if you are running a business site, furthermore in case of audit the ICP license will be revoked and your website blacklisted.
Third, depending of your investment capabilities, you can set up a new company in China. Registered capital requirements are been waived in multiple Chinese cities which make it easier to set up an operation in the country, even with a limited presence.
Finally, you may consider instead hosting at a nearby location for a relatively faster access (as compared to sites hosted on US or European servers). Such locations include Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. One host that we regularly recommend on this blog is SinoHosting which offers both China and multiple nearby countries hosting at affordable prices.
We hope this post has been useful. If you have more suggestions in terms of hosting in China for non-China residents, please feel free to post a comment.