Vice President, Digital Services
Leaping Over the Great Firewall
Sitecore in Mainland China
There are nearly a billion potential customers in the People’s Republic of China connected to the internet, making it the country with the largest online community and a very lucrative eCommerce market to sell into. However, establishing an online business behind the Great Firewall comes with many challenges. Careful consideration is needed to create a unique experience that serves both customer and brand needs with excellence.
XCentium met this challenge in collaboration with Tek.com, where we launched the first Sitecore site ever deployed on Mooncake (case study). This year, we’re well on our way to completing our next project with another commerce client entering the market, and we’d like to share the things we’ve learned along the way.
Meeting Regulatory Needs
Organizations considering an entry to this increasingly attractive market should be better prepared and understand how to do business in China, while limiting liability, maximizing business value, and not losing too much sleep. Here’s a list of regulatory compliances that you need to know before you go:
Internet Content Provider (ICP) License
There are two types of licenses, commercial – generate income from online sales or advertising, in addition to services that support payments, and non-commercial – or, Bei’an licenses, also known as “ICP filings”, granted for non-commercial, informational websites. No matter an organization’s type of business, an ICP License should be granted and must be added to the website’s footer for publication in China.
Personal Information Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China is yet to become an official law, but organizations should be aware of it and be prepared to comply. It is modeled after GDPR, with slight differences which include having PI officers available within the company to run risk assessments and regular compliance audits that need to be submitted to the Chinese government. In addition, there are additional rules for doing business with extra-China entities.
The Data Security Law of the People’s Republic of China was ratified and became enforceable on September 1, 2021. It governs data processing and management activity within China, but also those outside of China, that “damage national security, public interest, or the legitimate interests of [China’s] citizens and organizations”.
Don’t host a content management system for a Chinese website outside of China.
Have PI officers and a qualified legal team monitor regulatory updates.
Be ready, willing, and able to react and change quickly to avoid remediation.
For more information about the latest law and regulations, click here.
Technical Benefits: A Primer
The baseline solution is Mooncake – the China-based Azure platform. It is not a perfect mirror of the familiar Global Azure we all know, but it has its strengths and is the only Microsoft Cloud option in China. Working with our client, Microsoft, and Sitecore, XCentium developed and deployed a solution that offered:
Continuous delivery with zero-downtime
Cloudflare Global CDN for content distribution
The ability to publish from one location
Highly performant Solr Search Indexing using Containers (Learn More)
In some ways, doing business digitally in China is like the US. An organization will still need developers, infrastructure, and a platform with content and asset management, legacy integrations, and a team to manage it all. To run it in China in parity, you will need to have a consistent UX with design and content changes. However, re-writing the front end to accommodate WeChat is critical. Sitecore JSSallows organizations to manage their WeChat mini-program content from within Sitecore.
Simply put, WeChat is the dominant payment platform in China. As such, integration with a commerce-driven site is a must-have feature for organizations with aspirations to sell into the market.
Another key aspect is personalization. It’s very important and driven to some extent by user patterns developed in or originated by WeChat mini-programs. Sitecore excels in personalization by allowing your website to use predictive methods to determine what users are most likely to want to see and interact with.
Things to Consider
In general, don’t expect feature parity for any cloud service, because the regulations are very fluid and providers have to make decisions quickly to remain competitive. AWS for CN is more AWS custom and less of a boxed solution (for example, Landing Zone and Control Tower are not available in China yet). There is more overhead and more hand-holding than we are used to in North America. Anything around images or video seems to be in the crosshairs of regulators. We had to write our own Cloudflare image workers to re-size images on the fly, in addition to monitoring ongoing issues with Amazon Elastic Transcoder for video encoding.
With that in mind, thorough testing is critical. Don’t assume that what works for one user in a given region, will work the same for all everywhere.
When it comes down to connection and speed issues, you can expect latencies. We recommend working towards having someone in Mainland China to do maintenance tasks, DBA work, etc..
If you’re considering entering this exceptionally mature digital market or have any questions, then we’d love to connect. Please contact us for a no-cost, no-commitment consultation, and a member of our team will contact you shortly.