Tapping into China with a social website


I have the personal understanding, the ability to restructure my site so it is appealing to the Chinese audience and enough expat Chinese friends to test the hell out of my startup website.

What I would like to know is, is it worth trying to reach out to China? Please reply if you have had experience launching a site with the Chinese market as your customer or if you have a section of your site that is dedicated to the Chinese market (not just a translated site, but something dedicated to that area).

The biggest problem I can foresee is the site being blocked once it gets a reasonable amount of traffic.

Should I just get someone to register another domain in China and launch the same product under a different domain? I have heard this is not an easy path to go down.

Website Geography China

asked May 23 '11 at 12:09
1,257 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • some can reach out without making it a central part of the business model. if you can grow to be useful & popular enough like linkedin, you won't have to tailor specifically to a chinese audience. linkedin was blocked and then unblocked for of its international popularity and utility. ofc it largely depends on what kind social web you are providing and whether you would be dividing your energies creating a chinese version. what kind of niche in "social" are you trying to capture? – Henry The Hengineer 13 years ago
  • @The NeoTycoon - I travel to China at least once a year and many of the big sites reported as being available are often blocked. It can even depend on which city you are in. I'd be interested to know if people have a similar experience, or is only the bigger sites that have these issues. – Xiaohouzi79 13 years ago

3 Answers


It's a big market. If you understand the market and think you can win share from the competing social websites then it's a lucrative market to be in with enormous growth potential.

Host inside China if you are serious. The usability and cultural elements aside, the biggest issues we've faced with launching a website in China have been more technical hurdles. In order to host your website in China you need to be granted an ICP (Internet Content Provider) licence from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and IT. This is a straightforward process if you have a legal entity in mainland China to do this for you (Hong Kong isn't good enough), but if you are an overseas business it gets tricky. Of course it isn't mandatory to host your website inside China, but if you don't the page response times are going to be awful. In the US and Europe a typical page on our website loads in under 1.5s, in China the same page is between 5 and 10s. And this is using Akamai too.

If your main audience is going to be China, you really want their experience of your site to be fast and slick in order to take market share. Hosting in China will help to keep your site from being blocked by the Great Firewall of China, and you'll get much faster website response times as well.

Hope that helps.

answered May 23 '11 at 19:30
2,333 points
  • Thanks for the great response. – Xiaohouzi79 13 years ago
  • Just a comment to elaborate on this excellent answer: As far as I understand, Chinese ISP's are less good at peering with each other, i.e. route diversity is poor. Thus end user performance can suffer, at least suffer more than in EU/US, due to weird network routing. The following co-location provider claims to be one of the better connected providers, and is getting listed on the US stock market. I cannot offer a personal recommendation -- I don't work with them -- but look into these and their competitors: http://www.en.21vianet.com/Jesper Mortensen 13 years ago


  1. First of all these two terms you should be aware of: Chinese Government has a black list: which means websites on the list cannot be visit in China. For example: Facebook and Twitter. And there are also "White list", in Campus Network, only websites on the white list can be visited.
  2. To register your site(ICP) in China and host your site in China may be a good way. However in order to do that you need to register a company in China (only company or organization can register). China government always block websites with "sensitive words", For the company who registered, they may notice you to delete those sensitive words before they block your site. However if this is foreign site, without any registration, they will not bother to contact you.

Since your site is a Social website, it will be very hard to control the content.

answered May 24 '11 at 03:00
86 points


If you are based in America or almost anywhere not in China, this idea is a lost cause. The Chinese have traditionally killed non-Chinese businesses in China by favoritism and anti-competitive laws.

Not to mention, their Internet is all screwed up with various legal issues and prohibitions.

answered May 24 '11 at 03:03
1,821 points
  • Is this based on personal experience or what you heard in newspapers? For an answer like this to be of any use it needs to be backed up with proof. How does this help me make an informed decision? – Xiaohouzi79 13 years ago
  • @xiaohouzi79 It is based on many factors: 1) Real US companies who were not given equal competitive landscape..big examples are Starbucks, Google, etc. 2) China is reputed for being protectionist in terms of competing against Chinese business. – Genadinik 13 years ago

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