The numbers are mindboggling: Since 2004 the number of Chinese being online have grown from 94 million to 720 million in 2016. The result is an internet penetration of 52%.
And considering the rapid integration of online services in all aspects of life in China it appears likely that China will reach almost the same level of internet penetration as the USA within the next 10 years.
But perhaps even more important than the overall number of internet users is the number of online consumers. In 2010 China reached the same number as the USA - an impressive 140 million. In 2016 the number is set to reach a staggering 450 million online consumers - the entire population of the European Union.
In the West it is common knowledge that:
The 'Great Firewall of China' is blocking Western social media and critical websites such as the New York Times
The Chinese government watchdogs, delete and block 'problematic' stories from online media and blogs in China
But if you think this net of control and censorship has made the debate on Chinese social media more subdued than in the West you need to think again. In fact, the debate on Chinese websites is remarkably direct and honest.
While censorship has in no way slowed the growth of the internet in China the presence of the 'Great Firewall' poses real and growing challenges for foreign companies operating online in China.
The Great Firewall has two implications for websites hosted outside China. One is that they are almost always slow to load - sometimes incredibly slow. The second, and related, is that many websites cannot load at all. This is not just a problem for news websites etc. but for all kinds of websites.
There is only one solution, which is also straightforward: Getting your website hosted in China. To do so you must obtain a so-called ICP approval (Internet Content Protocol) from the Chinese authorities. By granting this the authorities deem you trustworthy of operating a site in China on a Chinese server.
If your company/organization operates a legal entity in China you can apply for the ICP directly, and if not we can do this on your behalf.