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China Organization Code - An Introduction

by Matt Slater December 17, 2014

China Organization Code - An Introduction

You may have received a copy of a China Organization Code certificate from your Chinese supplier and wondered what it is?

Chinese companies usually provide potential buyers with a copy of their business license in order to demonstrate that they are a legitimate businesses. Recently, however, we have seen more and more cases of companies providing a copy of their China Organization Code certificate instead. You might also have come across this certificate while viewing a Chinese company’s website or Alibaba profile.

This article provides some background on this certificate and gives an explanation of how the China Organization Code is used.

What Does the China Organization Code Certificate Look Like?

Hard Copy Version

This is what the certificate looks like if you have received a scan or photo of the original document:

Electronic Version

Electronic versions of the document can be downloaded and in such cases will include a “NACAO” watermark as you can see below:

The China Organization Code certificate has a number of anti-counterfeit features which are explained on NACAO’s English language blog here.

What Information is Displayed on a China Organization Code Certificate?

From top to bottom the fields are as follows:

  • Code number (代码)
    • This is a 9 digit number with a dash before the last digit, e.g. 12345678-9
  • Organization Name (机构名称)
  • Organization Type (机构类型)
  • Address (地址)
  • Period of Validity (有效期)
  • Issuing Authority (颁发单位)

Interesting fact: The last 9 digits of an organization’s tax license number is their China Organization Code number

Who Issues This Certificate?

China Organization Code certificates are issued by NACAO, or to give their full name, the National Administration for Code Allocation to Organizations.

NACAO is a large government institution that has been created specifically for managing China Organization Codes. As well as issuing certificates, they are also responsible for maintaining a nationwide database of organizations issued these codes.

The NACAO institution is itself administered by AQSIQ, aka The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China.

Who Uses the China Organization Code and Why?

Unlike a business license number, or a phone number, the China Organization Code system wasn’t set up for one particular purpose. Showing great foresight, the government realised as early as the 1980’s that China needed to get ready for the digital era and started planning for a universal nationwide organization numbering system.

Since its launch in 1989, China has made it compulsory for all organizations to apply for an Organization Code with the exception of Individually Owned Enterprises (个体工商户). This means that businesses, public institutions, social organizations, institutes, trade unions and non-governmental organizations must all have an Organization Code.

Although not compulsory, many Individually Owned Enterprises have applied for a China Organization Code. This is because an Organization code is required in order to carry out many important tasks, such as opening a company bank account or obtaining an export license.

At present the code has been applied to many areas on business and governance in mainland China, including banking, tax, police, statistics, foreign trade and customs. Having a universal code helps different authorities share information and streamline services.

Use of the China Organization Code certificate has recently reduced among organizations that are companies due to the introduction of a new 18-digit China business registration number. For companies the new business license certificate combines information from the Organization code so it has become obsolete.

There’s a National Database of Organizations with These Codes?

That’s right! This database is managed by NACAO and is accessible directly from their Chinese language homepage. Unfortunately this database can’t be searched in English at the moment, but maybe that will change in the future.

How to Verify a China Organization Code Certificate?

China Checkup offers verification of the China Organization Code certificate, which is one of the certificates verifiable with our Certificate Verification service.

Our Other Introductions

Matt Slater
Matt Slater


Hi there, I'm Matt, the founder of China Checkup. Originally from the UK, I am now based in Brisbane, Australia.

Frustrated by the scarcity of concise, high-quality and timely information about Chinese companies, I setup China Checkup whilst living in Shanghai in 2013.

My team are proud that China Checkup's company verification reports have now helped thousands of clients from all corners of the world to do business in China more safely.



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