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by Matt Slater
06 May 2016
Nearly all Chinese company names follow standard patterns and by just reading a company’s name and understanding these 5 key features you can already learn quite a lot about them.
For example, where they are registered, what they do (in a broad sense), whether or not they are foreign-owned and their general incorporation form.
This article, which includes many standard Chinese terms with English translations to illustrate our points, can help you to easily “break down” Chinese company names and better understand the companies in China you are dealing with.
Note that this article is specific to companies registered in Mainland China, although there are other jurisdictions where companies can register a Chinese name.
Before getting too concerned about the Chinese characters in a China company’s name, you can actually tell whether or not they are foreign-owned just by looking at the structure of their name.
Most Chinese company names are structured like this:
Registered location + Chosen name + What the company does + Company type e.g. 上海建国电子有限公司 or Shanghai Jianguo Electronics Co., Ltd.
However, foreign-owned company names take this form:
Chosen name + (Registered location) + What the company does + Company type e.g. 艾森（北京）贸易有限公司 or Aisen (Beijing) Trading Co., Ltd.
As you can see, foreign-owned Chinese company names include the registered location in brackets after their chosen name.
Chinese company names include the location where the company is registered.
Companies in Mainland China are registered by a branch of the AIC and this registration may be at the local, city, provincial or state level.
A Chinese company name usually just includes the name of the location (e.g. 深圳 for Shenzhen) but may also include the relevant character for county (县), city (市) or province (省). Companies registered at the state level meanwhile include the Chinese characters for China (中国) as the registered location.
In the table below we have identified each of Mainland China’s provinces (including municipalities and autonomous regions), their capital city and the other major cities in each province.
Remember that the characters for city (市) or province (省) may or may not be omitted from official Chinese company names.
The chosen name of the company makes it stand out from the crowd. It is often used for the company’s branding and is typically 2 to 4 characters long. The reasons why companies in China decide upon their “chosen name” can be very diverse and often reflects the character or goals of their owners.
In China, because company names are generally-speaking only officially registered in Chinese, translation of this part of the name into English becomes a proverbial minefield. This is particularly the case for foreign companies (and domestic companies that want to sound like foreign companies) as their Chinese name may only be loosely related, or even completely unrelated, to their English name.
With over 50000 characters in the Chinese language there are an almost unlimited number of potential chosen names, but there are certain characters that seem to be regularly used in Chinese company names. For example the characters 龙 (dragon), 达 (success), 福 (wealth), 富 (rich), 新 (new), 鑫 (prosperous), 金 (gold), 利 (profit), 力 (strength) and 特 (special) seem to come up regularly.
By taking data from a number of sources we have compiled a list of some of the most common Chinese company “chosen names”. The list includes chosen names in pinyin and their corresponding Chinese characters.
Readers from many countries may be surprised to hear that Chinese company names actually include a brief description of the company’s main activity!
Although a more in-depth description of a company’s activities are provided in the business scope section of their business license, being able to read a company’s Chinese name can be very useful in some cases, for example when identifying that a company claiming to be a manufacturer is actually a trading company.
The list below is arranged alphabetically based on our English translations of common Mainland China “what the company does” names. You can click on a letter to find the result you require.
Using the search tool is also an invaluable tool , particularly for searching in Chinese. For example, if your supplier’s name contains the characters “出口” you can search to find that they are involved in exporting.
Finally, at the end of Chinese company names comes the company type. This is consistent with most parts of the world, e.g. many US company names end in “Inc.” or “LLC” and many UK company names in “Ltd.”
In China the majority of companies you are likely to encounter are limited liability companies which is formally written as “有限责任公司”, but the official abbreviation “有限公司” is more commonly used.
However, there are other incorporation forms in Mainland China, which you can identify in the table below:
Note that a more detailed description of Chinese company types is provided on a Chinese company’s business license, and a glossary of these terms is presented here.
Because, generally speaking, foreigners can’t read Chinese characters (and neither can the banks that process their payments), it is often necessary for Chinese companies to choose an English company name.
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In an ideal world Chinese companies would choose English names that are direct translations of their Chinese company names. In practice however, they more often than not don’t follow this methodology – for a number of good reasons:
Sometimes this can lead to company English names that are misleading.
It is for this reason that when China Checkup prepares our verification reports, identifying the company’s Chinese name is a critical step.
Hi there, I'm Matt, the Founder & CEO 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.
by Matt Slater
09 January 2020
Listening to China business podcasts can be a great way to get insights on the Chinese market, pick up new knowledge and get fresh perspectives.
The great news is that there is actually a lot of great podcasts out there on this topic - and in this article I have chosen my current top ten.
These podcasts cover business in China from a range of angles - including tech startups, importing/sourcing, economics and more - so if you are interested in learning more about China business you are sure to find quality material here.
by Matt Slater
31 October 2019
This article identifies over one hundred of the most informative English-language China news websites.
By regularly sharing news from China on our social media channels we have identified many good sources and thought it would be a good idea to share these with you, our readers.
So if you are looking for websites with news on China, look no further than this long list we have compiled.
by Matt Slater
30 August 2019
Do you want to know which China city economies are the driving force behind Mainland China's huge and growing GDP figures?
As China's best-known cities, it came as no surprise that 2019 data popular in Chinese media identified Shanghai and Beijing as the cities with the largest GDP, but few will even have heard of Xinyang, which was ranked 100th.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's national GDP reached a new high of CNY 90,031bn (USD 13,608) in 2018, but which other Chinese cities had the largest share of this GDP? Keep reading to find out.
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