China Marketing Options for Businesses That Don’t Have a Chinese Business Unit, in One Simple Table

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:23

Foreign brands in China

Don’t have a business in China? Wondering what your limitations are? Wondering if it’s worth it to setup a business entity in China?

These are very common questions for small and mid-sized companies looking to crack the Chinese market, but it can be tough to get the correct information.

Here’s the quickest overview I can provide:

Chinese business entity chart


Hosting & Domains

Hosting is a consistent pain in China. Even for Chinese businesses. 

While you can’t officially host your website in China without a business, you can still host near China. Also, the hosting you currently have might still be fast-enough in China.

As for domains, if you want a .cn domain, you can still register one even if you don’t have a Chinese business

More info:



Even if you don’t have a Chinese business you can still use most of the digital advertising platforms in China.

The exception is WeChat. WeChat has been a major hassle up until now, and we hope that changes. The rules and regulations have been changing constantly throughout 2014.

For search engine marketing, just be careful to sign up via somebody that knows how to process applications by non-Chinese businesses (like us). There are many resellers, but in our experience the majority of them don’t know how to process the paperwork from other countries quickly and efficiently.

More info:



For e-commerce, it seems the most popular options for Western companies are either to setup a store on TMall or create a standalone website. Both of these options are fine… in most cases.

One option that smaller businesses might like to try is a Taobao store. However, it isn’t possible for a non-Chinese business to legally operate a Taobao store. You may need a partner of some sort for that to work.

More info:



Not having a business entity in China will not directly harm your SEO.

Baidu does not care where the site is hosted, it only cares about the site’s performance. So, this can be considered a hosting issue.

More info:



It is possible to register your trademark in China.

A major legal restriction is that you must have a business in China in order to legally hire employees. Some companies try to get around this by calling employees “contractors”… and some get away with it. But it isn’t advised. Instead of hiring employees, you might consider outsourcing some services you require to a business.

Or, of course, you could setup a business to solve this problem or any of the other problems that come with not having a Chinese business entity!

More info:


This post is written in response to the most common questions we receive. Keep in mind that there are various industry-specific restrictions that may come into play, and that things change over time. When it comes to hosting selection and legal issues, it’s best to get professional help.


Cover image source:

What kind of restrictions have you come across for doing business in China?



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