网站 → Wǎng Zhàn → Website
After discussing about getting online and the Chinese internet service scene, I come with the last part of the puzzle, getting your own piece of the internet property. While the gagging of most popular western online services may have sparked interesting and positive competition of homegrown services, it does have some negative effects. Unlike a normal startup, you can’t start with a domain name, computers and a bunch of people and then worry about the legal troubles later. You need to engage in some verification and legal matters starting from before you take your business, or your idea, online for others to see. I am mostly simplifying here, but the more personal side of it is what I’ve experienced, as I will tell you later.
Let’s take a personal website, like this blog. You got your hosting and neat domain name. You can’t even view it on your actual domain yet. All hosting companies based in China would require you to file separate paperwork to obtain a license to host your website publicly for others to view. In my view, it’s a process of understanding a non-English application form, making desperate attempts to speak English at a Chinese call centre, and understanding the weirdly restrictive way in which you name your website, and this is before you have your documents submitted for approval. If anyone is learning Chinese, this is a good thing to try without machine-translation as part of your real-life practice. I actually did this back in September, and it was hard under my vocabulary then.
Documents and personal details approved, you still need to submit a facial verification in one of many designated places across China. This means you are almost out of luck if you cannot be in the country during said process. That being said, however, I would say that the paperwork only equates the waiting time in terms of hardship. It generally takes about 3 weeks for the application to be responded to by the government authority, and there is still a chance that your application may be denied even then and that you have to start the process all over again. If your website is actually accepted/approved, you’ll also have to keep in mind the original intentions, language, and categories your website is defined under, and not to stray to something very different, unless you modify your license beforehand.
With a mouthful said about the simplest form of a website license (头疼!), you’ll also have to pass more bumps if you are a company, and particularly if you are trying to form an e-commerce site. For the sake of space, I would just leave it, but the extra steps such as a pre-approval process and other restrictions in play depending on what website you are trying to create makes many sort of services and creations very hard to host in China. While you can always host in neighbouring countries, even ones which are technically part of China (Hong Kong, Macau) without any of this in the way, it is worth noting that a better ping, always means higher clientele, and that is critical for a business to get a slice of the China pie, and why getting into the Chinese market has been both a dream and nightmare for most companies. The same reason with the basic licensing process are also why blogs like this rarely exist on their own domains in China, and people mostly blog on pre-existing platforms such as Sina’s.
To close, It has been a very interesting time looking up all this information and trying to delve into the process and topic of the Chinese internet on my own. In the slight research that led to this post, I’ve also created my own website hosted in China:
Feel free to click through and browse. I’m planning to include a list of places that I’ve been and recommended (mostly for food), more pictures as well as the CWOTDs for easy access. Moreover, the process of getting that site public has also been quite interesting. Glad to be able to get it out while I’m still in Beijing, and I will definitely be updating it with more words, places and images once I am home.