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Do You Know Which ICP You Need in China?

If you are going to start a website in China, you will need an ICP license. For those unaware,
the ICP license (Internet Content Provider License) is required for all commercial websites run in

This was issued by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and is called the
Telecommunication Regulations of the People’s Republic of China Act No. 291 and No. 292. If
your website doesn’t have an ICP license it will be blocked. China-based Internet service
providers (ISPs) are required, by law, to block a hosted website if a corresponding ICP license is
not produced within a specified grace period.

Keep in mind that the ICP license is a requirement only for websites hosted in Mainland China.
The ICP license number for a Chinese website is usually located on the bottom of a website’s

In order to get an ICP license, you must know that you will need to specify a China-based ISP
that is in the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) database. A very important
note here is that Hong Kong is considered outside of mainland China, and websites hosted
there are not required, by law, to apply for ICP licenses. However, keep in mind that most
hosting providers there have huge downtimes.

ICP licenses are issued at the provincial level, and can be applied for on the MIIT website. The
registration of the license itself is free, however some Chinese ISPs charge for it. Most often,
having a legal entity registered in China is a prerequisite for acquiring an ICP license.
If you are a foreign company and want to host a website in China, you won’t be able to acquire
the requested ICP license, so the only option such companies have is to find a partner company
in China and use their ICP license.

Now, there are two types of ICP licenses that can be obtained from the MIIT and it is very
important that you know which one you need.

First there is the Commercial ICP License. This one is required for e-commerce activities which
involve providing media content, sale of service, or acting as an intermediary selling third-party
products online. For instance, offering services such as those offered by Amazon or Taobao
would require you to register for a Commercial ICP license.

The second type is the Non-Commercial ICP License. This is the more basic license required for
all websites hosted in mainland China. Depending on local interpretation, this license is
sufficient for selling goods produced as part of a foreign owned entity’s business. The example
here is a manufacturing company looking to sell its stock online. For these purposes, it can
probably do so under a Non-Commercial ICP license (albeit with varying approval rights).
You should note, however, that it doesn’t matter what top-level domain has been used for your
website e.g. .com, .net, .org, .cn,, etc., the only requirement that must be met in order
for an ICP license to be mandatory is that your website is hosted on servers that are physically
located in mainland China.