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China wanted control over the internet, and now they have it.

2 years ago, China was a spammer haven, as domain registration was cheap, and USA based spammers (which still is the source of 99% of spam) registered a gazillion odd spam domains.

The powers that be decided to change that.

They changed the law.

First it only affected new domain registrations, you needed to provide real info for those registrations. Once they had that down, then they extended that to only Chinese people or Chinese organizations could register chinese domains. Then they started enforcing ICP registration for domains – each domain in china requires an ICP licence, or it can’t be hosted. For bonus annoyance points to do a ICP registration the website must be shutdown till the licence gets issued.

Then they extended that to no ICP licence, no domain – if your domain doesn’t have an ICP licence, bam, its put in suspended state at the registrar.
Now they’re rigorously enforcing ICP registrations to the n’th degree.

They’ve been cancelling those left right and center for no real reason, forcing people to resubmit.

Currently an ICP submission requires that you have an ISP licence, as only ISP’s can submit ICP’s for their hosted domains.

Each ISP has to verify sites as follows. Have the owner or representative for the site provide fill in 3 forms, make certified copies of business licence, copy of their ID, and take a photo of them in the ISP’s office. Which is the reason why all our clients need to come to our office now for photo’s and bring documents for their registrations.

These are scanned and submitted to the local Telecom authority through the ICP backend registration system. The user is then assigned a login and password where they can check their ICP licence at the MII official website.

Its been a pain in the ass for us recently as the Telco has been arbitrarily cancelling perfectly good ICP licences without notice or reason.
The Telecom bureau for each region does publish blacklists, but guess what – the cancelled ones don’t appear the blacklist.

If you host a domain with a cancelled licence (which unless you literally check all your clients licence stuff daily, you have no way of knowing about currently), then the Telco will also do fun lets call you at 6:30 on a Friday evening, and tell you that you have 30 minutes to remove that domain, or they shut down that ip address (shutting off hundreds of clients). What fun.

Its gotten to the point that I’m seriously considering moving all my non .cn clients to a new oversea’s server because we can’t keep up with their ever changing needs.

They keep changing the rules and regulations, they don’t have a decent mechanism in place for tracking stuff, and there is no warning if they arbitrarily cancel a licence.

What its meant for us is that domain management has gotten dramatically more time intensive over the last year, as the regulations and requirements for paperwork have changed a number of times now, requiring resubmissions, constant checks, and a lot more work. We have had to hire additional staff a few times already to cater for this at various points in time too.

All this does is increase our costs substantially, and annoy clients who ask why they need to do the ICP stuff yet again when they already did it.

Thank you China. Not.

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Had a client ask about some .cn stuff over Skype, so proceeded to give him the whole this is what is needed now haha fun story
i.e but no, theres more, you also need this…. and this…. and this… and don’t forget the photo in front of the sign..

While we do have our own list of requirements in this blog, I did google to see if there was something less dry, and discovered a little blog post which mirrored our own experiences quite similarly. Its a good read too –

Read this http://www.candisgroup.com/blog/busdev/the-history-of-chinese-icp-and-cn-ownership-2, then follow on below, as this was intended to be posted as a comment on that post, but their blog comments appear to be borked at the moment.

I’ve fleshed it out a little, and it still seems semi relevant here.

Do remember that while anything I say can and will be used against me as evidence, I never said it. Got that? Good, now read on.

Glad to see I wasn’t the only one that had to go through all that, and again in October last year.

I also fondly remember the shut down their site stuff.

First we made a ICP warning page, then a blank page, and then I got creative and started mapping the IP for the domain to the miibeian.gov.cn server – you never know, maybe they’ll shut down their site!

Apparently although this was amusing, it also wasn’t enough, and we too had to vanish the DNS into nothingness NOW
(which is also hard, as explaining that things take 1-2 days to propagate doesn’t seem to sink in with the telecom people)
Mind you, the threat from the terrori^H Telecom people to shut off their site didn’t really have the same effect when its already shut off dammit!

Then there are the clients who ask why do we have 4 icp addresses?
Well, because the government decided that you could only have 1 per login when we did them in 2005. However client just has 1 site, and they point .com .com.cn .cn et al to the same place. and Telecom INSISTS that you have an ICP for all of them, even though its the same site. Luckily they seem to have fixed that now, although we still have the odd site with 3 or 4 icp’s just because you can’t seem to get them to accept they’re all the same site dammit, just let us register them to the one ICP, please!

…and then there are the mysteriously disappearing ICP numbers of doooom, where the telecom people says that ICP is invalid. Its fake I tell you, FAKE!
Although you could swear that the ICP is real as you did all that darn paperwork the last time around, plus you have an email from miibeian which has that number, and domain, so please please recheck… but they still say thats impossible, it doesn’t exist in their system.
Why, why, why, would we possibly have a bazs.cert for the domain together with the icp and the url tucked away in our files if we didn’t receive it from them?, but no, we have to do it all again because their system is buggy, and these aren’t the droi^Hnumber’s you’re looking for.

At least they seem to have dropped that requirement now for the bazs.cert file to be uploaded to all sites now. I shouldn’t say that too loud though, someone up high will probably smack their head now, and say, I knew there was some other hoop we forgot to get people to jump through now, erm, I mean new legislation thats not clearly thought out so people have to work out the hard way what we want, er no, thats not right either, forget what I said…

Or the good old China optimistic scheduling / planning with regards to implementation dates?

i.e. You have 2 weeks to get all of your 700+ client registrations completed in triplicate, filed with CNNIC, registrar, and local telecom authority or we shut their site off…. What do you mean you need some kind of notice.
Jump NOW! We say how high.

Ah, the good old days.

At least the clients are understanding when you tell them hey, the government changed the rules again, we need more stuff, come for photos, bring your id’s, and business licences, and do it asap, or you lose the domain.

It’s at time like this when I think back to what should have been the slogan for the Shanghai expo and the thing with 5 circles up in Beijing (just prior to the big bonfire and marshmallows thing at the CCTV building that I didn’t get invited to).

China. – We invented bureaucracy.

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As I’m currently in the airport, waiting for a flight back to the UAE, I thought I’d share this small snippet of transparency vs secrecy.

As most China users will know, there is no official agency that “blocks” websites. In fact, most of the time, the government states that sites are not blocked, despite fairly obvious proof to the contrary.

China typically asserts that “connection resets” to sites like Facebook and Youtube are just network issues, despite those network issues solely appearing at the ip addresses associated with the government firewalls at the gateway routers to overseas.

Here in the UAE (Dubai), the government still blocks, but at least they’re upfront about it:
See below for an example of a blocked site

Why is this important?

Transparency is a big problem for western entities doing business in China. As with the recent Google PR stunt/debacle, most companies have no real mechanism for dealing with arbitrary judgements for / against things that affect their business.

A clear and transparent mechanism for dealing with why sites are blocked, coupled with a delisting mechanism would be a good place to start. It would also help to defuse the detractors against censorship – although most countries censor, China is one of the usual scapegoats picked on.

Maybe if China implemented a what (was blocked) / why (it was blocked) / how (to get unblocked) system, detractors would have less to complain about.

Lawrence.

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