Registering domain names in China is something that many Western companies seek to do, however the rules around that process are opaque and subject to relatively frequent change. Until last year, Western companies had not been permitted to own ".cn" domains, however this has recently changed.
For the registration of a .cn domain with ownership by a foreign company, the proper application must include provision of company registration paperwork. A scan of the original documentation usually suffices. "Cn" URLs can also be registered by foreign individuals too, and in such cases, a scan of a passport or similar is required. Western and Chinese URL registrars have been quick on the uptake to start offering such services to overseas companies. Firms are nevertheless advised to tread carefully if the legal ownership of any ".cn" domain registered is important to them.
Firms advised to check registration procedure
Prior to the recent changes, a few online registrars offered .cn domains for sale online at reasonable prices. Due to the block on foreign registration, the domain in question would registered by a Chinese proxy company. Many of the online providers of ".cn" still operate this practice, probably for reasons of speed and convenience, and have not updated their procedures. Such Chinese "proxy" companies appear to be benign, however one thing is clear: in such cases the .cn URL is not owned by the Western applicant. Now Western ownership is permitted again, it remains to be seen how many companies will pass previously registered URLs when asked on to those foreign firms who originally paid for the registration. In some current cases, we have heard from firms who were made aware of the requirement of paperwork prior to registration and preceded with the purchase, only to find that registration was still undertaken with a proxy and the request for paperwork was not followed up. In the past, things were easier.
Prior to 2008, any Western company was free to register ".cn" domain names via Western providers as easily as registering a ".com" domain. Legal ownership followed familiar lines, too, with foreign companies being allowed to own the URL they had purchased. With the approach of the Beijing Olympics things became stricter. By 2009, all .cn domain registration disappeared from the Western domain registration websites, as Chinese government offices closed processing of applications made by foreign entities. When processing resumed, registration by foreign companies was no longer permitted.
Summary: The current situation has been welcomed by many looking to secure a Chinese URL. A summary of the situation is as follows:
We are happy to advise readers of the current situation at any time. Please get in touch for current information.