Hosting Strategy for China Websites

Jun 14, 2023

If your website has a market in mainland China, you should host it there. Hong Kong hosting is an alternative, but it comes with compromises.

Why it matters

Generally, load times increase with the distance between user and host server. For a user in China, China-hosted sites load quickly, while US-hosted sites load slowly.

Additionally, data passing in and out of mainland China is filtered, further slowing it and in some cases blocking it altogether.

As a separate concern, China's main search engine, Baidu, prioritizes mainland-hosted sites over those hosted elsewhere.

What you need to host in China

  • An ICP (Internet Content Provider) license
  • A company registered in China, which is required in the ICP license application
  • A government-approved provider for domain name registration and hosting, such as Aliyun

What if your market includes China and other countries?

Ideally, host one site in China, and one (or more) international sites outside it.

For companies who cannot legally obtain an ICP license, or do not have the means to host multiple sites, a dual-language site in Hong Kong is the best alternative.

What are the compromises with Hong Kong?

For mainland users, Hong Kong is faster than US/Europe, but still slower than mainland-hosted sites. From our experience, the difference between mainland and Hong Kong hosting has been increasing over time, and is most noticeable for mobile users.

Additionally, there is some risk of a site being blocked due to its sensitive content, or sharing a server with another such site.

Finally, Baidu prioritizes mainland-hosted sites, and even those in Hong Kong are at a relative disadvantage

What about global CDNs?

Many CDNs that claim to be "global" do not include nodes inside mainland China. Indeed, it would be difficult for them to do so, given the legal requirements.

Additionally, some CDNs have complex rules for how they route traffic, making it difficult to troubleshoot common issues for China users.


  • If you have a market in China and you are able to host in China, you should do it.
  • If you have an international market that includes China, host separate China and international sites.
  • If budget or an ICP license are concerns, host in Hong Kong.