Every company in mainland China needs to apply for a business license with the government’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC, 国家工商行政管理总局), which is the equivalent of a Company House and has offices in every province. The business license is mandatory for the companies to operate legally. When they registered, they choose a name and they are being given a 18-digit business registration number, called the “Unified Social Credit Code” (统一社会信用代码). Lack of the business license is an indication they are operating illegally. Verifying a business license is the first step when you make due diligence or simple checks on a Chinese company. It allows you to verify that the company has a legal existence and that the business is being ran within a legal framework. Careful! The company’s registration documents are not a guarantee against scams! Scams are usually made by companies that do legally exist but are just not what they pretend to be.
As a centralized country, the Chinese government built up a centralized database that gathers the legal registration information for every company registered on China territory (i.e. Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan excluded).
The database is called National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System (国家企业信用信息公示系统) and is accessible to public via a website www.gsxt.gov.cn, which also has pages dedicated to each province. Put in service in 2015, the website allows to search for a company registered in mainland China by entering their official company name or company registration number.
As anyone can notice at the first glimpse, the website is only available in Chinese, as it is conceived as a tool for the Chinese authorities themselves.
Another reason is that the Chinese companies registered with a name in Chinese characters, with no obligation to translate their name in English. Most of the time and especially for small and medium enterprises, the companies do not have a name translated in Latin character. So even if the website provided an interface to run a request, the use of Chinese characters would still be mandatory to make a proper and accurate research.
Here we took the example of Huawei Investment Holdings Co., Ltd. (华为投资控股有限公司), the company heading over the all Huawei group. Here are the basic information available:
As there is no English version of the registry, you can to find information in English on Octobot’s database here. Octobot database is the most comprehensive database in English on Chinese company available online. You can run a search right here and access freely to registration information.
Since the creation and implementation (2015) of the Uniform Social Credit Code -aka the registration number mentioned above- the other identification numbers provided by different administrations are less relevant and less convenient. We can mention the TIN, as it is a number that can still be encountered.