Irrespective of where you are in the world and who you are about to do business with, due diligence is essential to protect yourself. In China things can be a little more difficult due to language issues and access to information but not impossible. Here is our checklist of things to do based on 20 years of doing business here.
- Ask for a copy of the company’s business license, this provides the most basic of information relating to the company: Official company name, date of formation, business scope and name of business owner.
- If possible, check with local State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) on the legitimacy of the business details you have been provided.
- Points to notice on the license would be: Is the business scope in keeping with the type of business you will be conducting? Is the registered capital in keeping with the business you will be conducting: typically a Consulting company might have just 100,000 rmb in registered capital, whilst with a manufacturing company you would expect a few million rmb.
- Who is the person you are talking with? Is he using a company email or a personal one. Whilst it is not uncommon for legitimate people to be using personal emails such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org it should make you a little more cautious as to who they really are. Consider if you dealing with an official company representative or a middleman/broker? Does my contact have binding legal authority over the company?
- Take a look at the company website. Compare the information that is available on their English to their Chinese language site, and note any discrepancies you may find. See where the company is located, dose this match up with the registration address. If not it`s worth asking a few more questions.
- If your being asked to make a payment, is it to a Personal bank account with somebody`s name or to the official Company account with the company name? Whilst it is not unusual to use personal accounts in China to mitigate tax, ask to be given the company Bank details just as a further check on legitimacy. Further all Chinese companies should be able to provide you with a official Chinese Invoice issued by the Tax administration (not a Invoice printed on a company letterhead), if they say they are unable to it would be for one of 2 reasons: they are mitigating tax (in which case you may negotiate) or simply they are unable to since they are not tax registered.
- With a manufacturer do they have a quality control system in place? Do they have an international quality accreditation? If so, ask for a copy and check with the authorization organization. It is also worth checking the company against:
- Depending on the amount of money involved in your transaction:
Consider hiring a verification company to pay a visit to your Chinese supplier. Commonly 30% is usually acceptable as a retainer and the balance, 70%, with the B/L. Also consider other ways to pay such as Letter of credit, to reduce the risk.
In the case of any dispute, a written procedure for Arbitration (either in China or elsewhere) instead of the Chinese Courts is always preferable: it will save you lots of money and time.
- Lastly consider the time spent at meetings and banquets as part of the process. You might think this is laborious, but the Chinese are using this time to establish whether you will make a suitable and trustworthy partner and whether they want to enter into a long-term business relationship with you. It is wise to be doing the same.
Whilst the realities of doing business with China can seem daunting they are not insurmountable. Do not presume anything, but do ask for information and proof. Again if your not comfortable with anything, ask and always use your instinct.