The China "Forbidden" List for Advertising

What is the China "Forbidden" List?

As part of it’s job in "maintaining social harmony" the CAC or “Cyberspace Administration of China” places content and advertising restrictions (censorship) depending on the nature of content, products and services sold online. These are known as “on the Forbidden List“. Websites containing or linking to sites that contain forbidden content can be blocked in mainland China. Beijing PBOC regularly publishes it's updated "forbidden list" of (currently 70) industries and services that are not allowed to advertise or to sell online inside the great fire wall of China.

Strict rules and restrictions are placed on internet service providers, marketing platforms (including Baidu), Social Media (including Weibo and We Chat ) and all publishers that wish to reach the online audience in China. Paid-advertising (such as opening social media accounts, or PPC/SEM advertising) and payment providers are forbidden to provide services these types of industries and products.

It is important to note that Search Engine Optimisation (Chinese SEO) is-permitted as long as the content is not blocked by the great firewall of China. For example: it does not stop gold-or commodity traders being online however they are just not permitted to buy advertising.

What sorts of products and services are on the forbidden list?

The list can be broadly divided into three sectors; (1) political-socio-cultural, (2) economic and (3) banned (illegal) product/s. To an outsider without an understanding of the way China works, including the obvious forbidden products and political content, there are some surprising additions to the list that may seem a little odd to westerners. Things such as "fetal gender testing kits," "gold" and "Peppa the Pig" are all banned from being advertised inside China. There are also "censored on the go" topics as new words/ towns/ places and topics are added to be blocked by the firewall. ISP's are informed immediately whenever a new "forbidden" search item is added.

1. Political and Social Content

Under the political and socio-cultural banner falls all content that may be deemed as offensive to Beijing. This includes maintaining the revisionist messages and general stand of the Party as well as Chinese cultural norms. Political content must-adhere to the party line and not put the party in a bad light. This includes any negative references to the party or content that may cause "loss of face." A recent famous example is the banning of the image and mentioning of the cartoon characters "Peppa the Pig" and "Winnie the Pooh" because they were used by bloggers to lampoon Party leaders.

Political and/or historical content that dispute the revisionist Party line is also strictly forbidden, such as posting about Tiananmen, Xinjiang, Tibet or to discuss Taiwan as an "independent state." For example all international airlines were forced to rename Taiwan as part of mainland China on their booking systems or risk being banned from flying to and from lucrative China routes.

Naturally all unapproved political or religious literature is also banned.

Another political element is the censorship of "bad news" such as environmental disasters, pollution, industrial accidents or events of social unrest incidents are also blocked.

Social content that is censored can be broadly termed as "offensive to Chinese culture." This includes pornography and gambling websites, forbidden music or content that is deemed inappropriate for Chinese viewers. For example the once highly popular live streaming service whereby ladies would seductively eat a banana has been banned due to it's sexual overtones and inappropriate nature of the content. Hip Hop music was also recently deemed as offensive however due to it's sheer popularity it will be hard to see it being entirely banned on the China web. Lottery and “lucky games” are also banned for advertising online.

2. Economic and Financial Products and Services

These rules are based on protecting consumers from financial scams and controlling currency and banking services. The China government places restrictions on financial transfers and the marketing of financial products and services. Examples include advertising gold, FX currency exchange and trading and crypto currencies (e.g. Bitcoin). Auction sites, digital payment systems and websites that enable property transactions are also forbidden. E-wallet and online transactions must show their SAFE (Beijing) license. Insurance and stocks/ securities firms must also be approved prior to opening accounts

Crowd funding and fund-raising content is banned as are pyramid schemes.

3. Forbidden Products and Services

These rules are to restrict or prevent fake, illegal or restricted products from being advertised online. For example, seeds, weapons, narcotics, sex toys, gender determination kits, lock picking kits, pharmaceuticals and “vulgar” products.

As a rule of thumb if your product is-registered with China customs and approved for sale and distribution inside of China then it will be OK to advertise. However, this rule does prevent a lot of “food” and “cosmetics” and “health” related companies that have not (yet) got their products registered. E.g. supplement and vitamin manufacturers need to prove their products are registered before we can submit application for their online advertising accounts. Education providers such as colleges and Universities must-show their local education certificates as part of the approval process. Tourism providers may also be requested to produce local registered tourism operating licenses prior to being approved.

Is my brand and product ok to be advertised behind the great firewall of China?

Contact China Sales Co for a free consultation on your digital advertising options for China. Since 2014 China Sales Co has been providing expert Baidu SEM and PPC campaigns, advertising on Weibo and Social Media, (blogs). Our experts are here to help you get the traffic you deserve.

New* 39 page Guide to Selling Online in China

China Sales Co has just released its new guide to Selling online in China.

Published in September 2017 this guide contains the latest detailed information on how to start selling online to China.

This fresh 39 page guide is packed full of instructions for those looking to begin to sell online to China. Authored by China Sales Co founder Robert Burns an e-commerce expert this no-nonsense guide will save your business months of research and effort. Contains the latest information (updated Sept 2017) on China Social Media, and cross border e-commerce, payments and online advertising.

Price:USD$350 and can be ordered online from the China Sales Co store (link to store (hardcopies also available),

Sales Guide Contents (headers)

Step One: China knowledge: Learn the China playing field

Market Research

Market Size



SWOT Analysis

Useful Links and information about China

Digital Marketing

Search Engine Marketing

China Social Media

What you need to know about We Chat

Know your marketing strategy & distribution channels

Know your main KPIs

Step Two: Build your custom China brand face and platforms

Build your Chinese-friendly brand face and product customization

Build your Chinese website

Build your 3rd party e-commerce platforms store

Build your online China-friendly store

Open your online payment accounts

Step Three: China POS and logistics

China entry and Logistics

China point of return & storage

Step Four: Start to sell sell sell!

Trade Fairs and Digital Promotions

Digital promotions

China Social Media Campaigns

China Search Engine Optimization

Step Five: Expand Your Market Share

Quality control

Tracking your business

Market watch: stay on top of your competitors

Basic Costs to start selling into China


Buy Now!: Price:USD$350 and can be ordered online from the China Sales Co store a> (link to store hardcopies also available),

How much was sold online across all platforms on Singles Days?

Post Date: Nov 14 2016

Once again we have had another record breaking event for e-commerce in China as we wrapped up a successful Single Day 2016 last Friday. As many would already by now, Alibaba sold a massive RMB ¥120.7 billion through their e-commerce platforms, measured in GMV (Gross Market Value) in just 24 hours. But we mustn't forget that Alibaba alone does not represent the entirety of e-commerce in China, it is just one player (albeit a very big player) in the vast Chinese digital ecosystem.

While many of Alibaba's competitors have not made official announcements on their sales volumes, we thankfully have Chinese big data research and development companies like Syntun in Beijing to help us keep track. So what is the grand total consumers spent online over Singles Day?

RMB ¥177.04 billion (USD $26.11 billion) on 1.07 billion packages.

So the top grossing platforms are:

Alibaba: ¥120.74 billion ¥40.18 billion

Suning: ¥3.89 billion

Guomei: ¥3.36 billion

1号店: ¥2.3 billion ¥1.77 billion

Others: ¥4.78 billion

The breakdown of the top grossing categories include large home appliances 20.1% (such as TVs, white goods, and kitchen appliances), mobile phones 12.1% (top 3 being Apple, Huawei and Xiaomi), Cosmetics 12% (14.9% through cross-border), and maternity & dairy products 6.4% (of which 93.1% was infant formula! Domestic consumption of imported infant formula was over 70% as of June 2016)

Other interesting facts include:

82% of all transactions happened on mobile

5.6% of all transactions were cross-border sales

6.4% of all transactions were on dairy products (RMB ¥7.65 billion), of which infant formula accounted for 93.1%!

While there is no indication of what proportion of infant formula was imported, we do know that imported product account for more than 70% market share in the high end market (as of July, according to the China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuff and Native Produce)

So Alibaba is still the king of Singles day with being the only one able to put up a decent fight. Perhaps JD's efforts to avoid the price wars and differentiate themselves by prioritising quality and services is starting to resonate more with consumers (its slogan "take your shopping seriously, buy only quality"). We are also seeing growth in the level of cross-border sales in many consumer products except for electronics, where local brands reign supreme due to their value for money offerings.

Source: "星图数据1112:双十一网购大数据报告"

China Sales Co delivers plugins for Dinpay Magento and Woocommerce

Post Date: Nov 1 2016

China Sales Co. develops and releases 2 major e-commerce plugins for Dinpay payment gateway

Dinpay is the next-generation of payment systems, enabling merchants to collect payments from Alipay, WePay, China Union Pay and top Chinese banks.

"China Sales Co has just successfully delivered secure plugins for Woocommerce (for Word Press) and for the Magento platforms" said Sales Director William Fong today. " Dinpay already offers multiple Chinese platform plugins but for outside of China we needed the plugins developed as soon as we could. We are pleased to assist the amazing Dinpay system connect with two of the most popular global e-commerce platforms and our congratulations to the technical team for delivering the plugins from scratch in just under 3 months." Plugins can be downloaded from China Sales Co store.

" We are pleased that China Sales Co has delivered these plugins" said Jubilee Deng, head of International Development at DDBill Technologies. "Our Word Press and Magento customers are now able to switch on Dinpay thanks to China Sales Co."

China Sales Co Ltd announces new Global GM and new Sales Director

Posted: Shanghai July 30,.2016: China Sales Co. Ltd HK announces the departure of Robert Burns and introducing our new Global GM, Mr. Donal Manning, and a new Sales Director Mr. William Fong.

"We thank Robert Burns for his hard work and contributions to the business over the last 2 years, and we wish Robert every success in his new role. We will continue forward to growing China Sales Co. Ltd as the trusted ecommerce provider in China" stated the new GM Donal Manning today in San Francisco, USA.

"Robert will remain as an advisor the board, and I look forward to building on the great work he has delivered for the company. We also welcome onboard Mr. William Fong as our new Sales Director based in our Shanghai office. William brings the company significant expertise and experience as an ex-Austrade (Australian Government Trade office) and we look forward to his contributions towards growth of the business."

China Sales Co Ltd is China digital marketing and e-commerce company with regional offices in China, USA, EU and Australia. Operations are based in Shanghai. China Sales Co are experts in China SEO, China SEM and China Social Media. For further information can contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact your local regional office.