Do I Really Need An ICP License for China?

By Todd KuhnsLast Updated on Nov 14, 2020
Do I Really Need An ICP License for China?

China maintains strict control over websites, games, apps, and e-commerce within its borders. Any “internet content provider” must first gain a license to be able to do most business online – or even to post information on a website.

If you are planning to do online business in China, you will eventually learn about the need for an ICP License, which stands for “Internet Content Provider License”.

ICP commercial example, page 1
Example of an ICP License certificate.

But the information online can be confusing, because there are two different kinds of ICP permits which are referenced frequently and often confused for one another:

ICP Filing (ICP备案): Also known as an ICP Beian, this license is required for websites hosted in Mainland China that are purely informational. It is also increasingly becoming required for deploying mobile apps and games on the Chinese app and game stores.

ICP License (ICP经营许可证): Also known as a Commercial ICP, this authorizes its holder to conduct e-commerce, accept payments, and otherwise conduct business online. It applies to online stores that sell services or physical goods, but also usually needed for SaaS, and games or apps collecting in-app payments.

If you are planning to make money with any platform, software, website, or online store in China, you will need to get an ICP License. The problem is that they are only available to Chinese-owned businesses with a Chinese business license OR joint ventures with 49% or less foreign investment.

If you are a non-Chinese company trying to do business in China, there is a way: Partner with a Chinese entity that can apply for the license on your behalf.

For a more detailed breakdown of the different ICP permits, the requirements, and process of acquiring one, see our article: How Can I Get An ICP License or ICP Filing For China. And for more information about how AppInChina can help your company solve its China legal compliance issues, contact us today using the contact button below!