Blog / China CDN Comparison and Considerations - Which is Best for You?

China CDN Comparison and Considerations - Which is Best for You?

Here we are at the onset of 2021 - Covid is rampant with a more virulent UK and South African strains proving troublesome. The entire world is working remotely, 'digital' has never been more important to businesses, and China - a single market, with 1.4 billion people has positive GDP growth. 

This warrants being said again - China's economy continues to grow despite Covid. 

With all eyes on China - almost every business is trying to figure out how they can expand there, growing their digital presence especially. While there's a ton of confusing information out there, and the answer to that question is rather broad, we're going to look specifically at web performance. 

You have a website, it's fast in your home market, but it's slow in China. What's next?

You've heard of CDNs, and they're supposed to accelerate content globally. You go to a search engine, and type in the words: "China CDN", right? Wrong. 

No - a China CDN is not what you're looking for


You're looking for a CDN thinking it's the solution to your speed woes, but it's not a CDN you're looking for, it's a faster site. These are related, but different.

These aren't the droids you're looking for...

If you want a faster site in China, Chinese CDNs are only part of the full solution.

Who Needs a Chinese CDN? 

To get a Chinese CDN (in China vs overseas) there is considerable administrative work that needs to be done. You need (or can get) a Chinese CDN if you are:

In a Regulated Industry (like Banking, Insurance, Medical, some others..) and you are targeting users specifically in China

You have, or you are a Chinese business entity with which you can obtain and attach your ICP Licence to

You are building an entirely different website catered specifically to China (this isn't a hard-requirement)

Let's look at a hotel chain, the large ones are global in nature, and their global websites: e.g. globalhotel.com don't need ICP Licences. A Chinese user may browse to their site, book a room, and upon flying to said location, make avail of that room. This hotel chain needs their website to be fast (which may or may not include using a Chinese CDN), but they are not in a regulated industry, don't need to host onshore, create a local business entity, apply for the ICP License, etc...

Now, let's look at a bank, again the large ones have global websites: e.g. bigbank.com which also don't need an ICP Licence. If they open up retail branch offices in China, they would likely create a local website: e.g. bigbank.cn, that caters specifically to the mainland Chinese audience. These local websites, will likely have been built from the ground-up using Chinese best practices, will have the local licences, and therefore may simply add a Chinese CDN for content acceleration. 

The global site bigbank.com may have some limited set of products that may be applicable to the Chinese consumer, and will need to optimise their site for Chinese delivery. This global site isn't built in Chinese best practices, and so it would have to re-engineered to work in China, it also doesn't have the requisite licenses. These sites can still be accelerated but adding a Chinese CDN will not fix their reliance on Western resources and networks. The Chinese CDN path for offshore companies isn't the solution

Forget the Onshore Route. Do You Just Want a Faster Site? 

If you are not a Regulated Entity, then your objective is to simply accelerate your site. In this case, Chinafy is your answer. CDNs are one piece of the puzzle, but there are numerous other components on the page that slow down sites from loading in China.

Combining a multi-CDN infrastructure and a series of code optimisations, Chinafy enables websites to load quickly in China, with some fully optimised sites loading within 2-3 seconds (note that performance depends on a number of factors). To learn more and see some data, check out these two articles:

Chinafy vs CDNs

Chinafy vs Alibaba, vs Akamai, vs Cloudflare and more


If you've read the Chinafy vs CDNs article above, are confident you have no compatibility issues at all, and you're intent on one CDN vs a Multi-CDN configuration, then read on. 


China CDNs

There are two types of Chinese CDNs:

Type 1: Chinese Companies with Chinese CDNs

There are a handful of high-quality CDNs, and whether latency or throughput is your priority, there are a number of considerations. Citrix, thankfully benchmarks these regularly. 

Large difference between Chinese CDNs and Western CDNs

 With Latency in mind, as of Tues, Jan 19th, 2021, Alibaba has the lowest latency vis-a-vis their competitors. This changes from day-to-day, from city-to-city, and this is also specifically the onshore Alibaba CDN (i.e. that is, Aliyun.com's CDN, NOT AlibabaCloud.com CDN). 

CDN Throughput Averages in China

With Throughput as the priority, we see that Baidu CDN offers the fastest throughput today - again, this changes day-to-day, and from city-to-city. A multi-CDN solution is far more reliable. 

Type 2: Non-Chinese Companies with "Chinese CDNs"

Western companies don't actually own or operate their own CDNs in China. These include: 

- Cloudflare with their Cloudflare China CDN - powered by Baidu

- Akamai with their Akamai China CDN - powered by China Net Center

- Azure with their Azure China CDN - powered by 21Vianet

CDNs partner with other Chinese companies and operate logically separate infrastructure (for various reasons) although there is some level of integration and connectivity. When considering the above CDNs, remember that, while China CDNs allow you to host content onshore, your webpages still require code overhauls to ensure code compatibility. 

Looking for an all-in-one solution that uses a multi-CDN solution, and addresses code compatibility? Reach out to us and chat with our China technologists today. 



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