Blog / How to make websites work in China

How to make websites work in China

For most folks, the automatic thought process goes to:  

1. How to host a website in China?
2. What about getting a China CDN? 
3. What is an ICP licence and how do you get one?

These questions are all valid and related methods work. That is, if you have at least a few months and a headcount of 3-10 expert engineers headcount to spare.

Even with these boxes checked, your websites might still not be working as they should.

In this article, we’ll explain why most websites don’t work in China and walk through the various ways to optimise your website so that it does work well, consistently, for China visitors.

Step 1: Understand why websites don’t work in China

Source: Dribble

The ‘Great Firewall (GFW)’ is an easy culprit to blame, but what exactly is it and is it really the only factor keeping your website from working well in China?

The truth is that non-performance in China is a technical issue for the most part.

Except for domains - like,, - that are made inaccessible for reasons outside of technical factors, the majority of websites fail to “work well in China” because but they’re built in a way that leaves them unusably slow, broken, or inconsistent at best.

The key variables that contribute to this poor performance in China includes -

i) code incompatibility and 

ii) infrastructure incompatibility (more on what this means below)

i) Code incompatibility

Do you use Google APIs, Facebook trackers, reCaptcha or YouTube videos on your website?

These supporting resources reference inaccessible domains such as ‘’ which stalls other requests from loading locally on users’ browsers in China.

While these are the most prevalent examples, there are a number of the additional popular development libraries and plugins that are nonetheless slow and further lengthen the loading process, if not stops it, entirely.

Notes for developers

Below is a waterfall chart that shows exactly what happens when a page containing ‘’ is loaded in China. As you can see, nothing gets loaded until the browser give up on, just right after the 35-second mark.

ii) Infrastructure incompatibility

Most global websites tend to favour non-China providers to host or accelerate their websites outside of China. The speed of cross-border content delivery is a normally matter of physical distance, i.e. the further away visitors are from the hosting providers, the longer it may take to load a page.

The delay is typically a matter of seconds. However, in China - it is exacerbated to minutes.

iii) Your website is made inaccessible in China

The internet environment in China is uniquely different from rest of the world with certain sites being explicitly made inaccessible in China for regulatory reasons. You may want to consult with your legal team on the local laws that may apply to your nature of business in order to prevent your website from being made inaccessible in China.

The good news is this is much less common than technical issues.
Better news? There’s still something you can do about your site.

Test your site in China using the Chinafy Visual Speed Test

Step 2: Identify your market objectives in China

Banks and insurance providers tend to have a regulatory demand to operate for the China market due to the nature of their business operations – is this you? Are there local regulations your website needs to comply with in China?

YES – read on for considerations on both compliance and development in China (more on this in step 3).

NO – just want a fast and functional site? We’ve got you (jump to step 3c).

Step 3: Evaluate solutions for your needs

a) Host websites in China (i.e. the fully onshore route)

As mentioned, banks, insurance providers and alike may have more to consider where in China these organisations are encouraged to host a website onshore.

If so, get an ICP license to qualify yourself as an internet content provider in China.

Then, build a new website for local delivery. You’ll also need to keep in mind a list of blocked resources and find China-friendly alternatives on an ongoing basis to evolve your site for the sake of performance.

The expected timeline usually takes anywhere from 2-12 months and involves input from both compliance and development on an ongoing basis.

Recommended for: Companies that need to operate in local data centers in China. A separate budget is also needed to optimise performance at a later stage once the site is up and online.

Need an ICP? 
Contact Chinafy ICP Support to enquire more.

b) Use a China CDN (*Partial fix*)

CDNs such as Cloudflare China, Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud are great for accelerating regional delivery - but note that in China...

All CDNs - whether they are in China or near China - are limited in that they do not accelerate third-party resources nor resolve any inaccessible resources in China.

Examples include, components like YouTube videos, Facebook trackers that are inaccessible on the domain level, or slow-loading resources from other trackers, assets hosted on a website builder’s domain and so forth.

Configuring a CDN on websites also requires studying its performance regionally in China and development inputs to refine performance where needed.

Recommended for: Websites built with few to no 3rd-party resources and by owners with some development experience.

More about China CDN comparisons and considerations

c) Hands-off, bolt-on alternative: Chinafy

Chinafy is the only platform solution able to optimise all websites to achieve virtually performance with an offshore set-up. We also support hosting in China, at your option with our industry-leading partners

Chinafy combines intelligent China-specific resource optimisations with a multi-load-balanced infrastructure to make websites achieve 6-8x acceleration with improved deliverability in China.

The time to deployment for Chinafy users is <1.5-2 weeks.

Chinafy proudly powers websites around the world – including the University of Pennsylvania, SSAB, Swire Hotels and Kyoto Tourism Federation.

Recommended for: Anyone looking to launch in China within weeks with minimal additional overhead, and without having to build a new website entirely.

Click "Get Started" to optimise your site with Chinafy

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