Most small businesses in fact do not pursue hosting within mainland China proper.
Even those who possess a business license in China, often opt to first get a up and running in Hong Kong, and then later take steps to pursue their formal Internet Content Provider License (ICP) application. The reasons for this are many. First of all, you may wish to see how consumers/customers/clients within China respond to your initial site idea, and then proceed based on that REAL information. Perhaps most importantly, it takes time (and minor bureaucratic set-backs) to get the ICP when you can have a site up and runnning and servicing customers from Hong Kong literally within hours, and
without the need for anybody's permission or approval. Further, there is nothing inherently illegal about this.
If you're set on hosting within mainland China, that's absolutely fine from my perspective, but you've got to get your ICP (Internet Content Provider) permit. This requires a business license and that someone from your company show up at a government office, personally/physically.
If you have a site or content at such providers as Blogspot.com, Wix.com, Scribd.com or many other internet service providers outside China you may be aware of blockages outside of your control. The simple solution is to host in Hong Kong with a business-oriented hosting provider, such as myself.
Your site may get blocked because SOMEONE on that server/IP address is putting something up on the web which the mainland Chinese authorities are not pleased with. That's it in a nutshell. I've been reading newspapers in Chinese for over twenty (20) years, both those inside and outside mainland China, and if you think I don't have a sense of the way their politics works you'd be wrong. You
have no control over whether or not some other account holder
in a shared hosting environment (for example with Godaddy.com) is making some some sort of political statement and screaming and yelling. With me you are guaranteed a "clean IP address". There will be no other sites on any of my IP addresses which violate any of the rules set by the Communist party because I will remove them. I control all of the sites on my IP addresses, so there is no possibility of that happening. If you go with an IP address owned by Wix or some other hosting provider you could be free today and blocked tomorrow. A hosting provider can (and usually does) have many IP addresses with thousands accounts spread out over hundreds of IP addresses. The company which owns the datacenter where my actual physical machines are located has over thirty employees in Hong Kong and they are local Hong Kong-based native Hong Kong Chinese. They have businesses who rent space in their datacenters and transact substantial volumes of business in and through the mainland. It would be extremely harmful for them to discover that traffic from and to their servers were being blocked by China's firewall. I'm a Christian, but I'm not going to go up against Goliath for you: so I will need to cancel your account if you place politically sensitive material on your publicly facing websites/applications.
I've got two systems going at once, so if something happens to an IP address on one, I'll just switch over to the other (and it's not really expensive at all, and there are reasons in addition to reduncancy to do this anyways). To date I've had no problems whatsoever; and I chalk it up to my care in searching through virtually every hosting/web-space providing company based in Hong Kong. The key is the location of the server, it's IP addresses, and it's data transport routes connecting to it. I use a company whose datacenter has direct routes with two major ISPs: China Telecom and China Unicom.
If I build you a website and you have a blogging function, or can otherwise change and modify what is on your website,
you may not post on my server any information critical of the authorities in China. I just can't allow that to happen. So, please be aware of this at the outset.
You don't need any permits to host a business website in Hong Kong, but you do if you want a website hosted within China and/or a totally official Wechat business account. Please understand that you could make your company/product/website go viral on WeChat without anything official if you want to hire a bunch of local Chinese to work around the clock to promote your sites through their networks of friends, and friends friends, and friends of friends of friends, etc.. That is simply a matter of hourly rates for local employees that own a phone: which is virtually everybody and monthly wages among less-skilled workers in Shenzhen is about $700 US per month.
But those workers won't speak English. To get someone who speaks English you'll need $900 to $1100 USD per month. And more than that if you want them to have experience and/or a strong skill-set (for example in sales/marketing).