7 Documents Your Supplier in China Might Give You

by Matt Slater November 14, 2013

7 Documents Your Supplier in China Might Give You

It is important to request your supplier in china to provide some key registration documents and certification as a form of due diligence to protect your business.

There are certain common documents that any supplier in China should be willing and able to provide you, whereas others may not be available. This article identifies some of the key documents and provides explanations on what they are and why they are important.

Many of these are documents that you should always request a copy of, and others will be essential in different situations. In all cases it is important to verify that certificates are genuine.

1. Business License

The business license is the standard piece of documentation that should be viewed in every business deal with a Chinese company. Requesting a copy of the business license is a very common, legitimate request, so any resistance to it from a supplier in China can be a useful early warning sign. Once you’ve got a copy of the business license, you’ll need to understand it and verify it.

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Always be aware of the potential for forgery when dealing with any documentation. Fake Chinese business licenses certainly exist, ranging from sloppy photoshop jobs to ‘adjustments’ that are a bit harder to spot. Read this article about verifying the information on a Chinese business license, or contact us to find out how we can help in your situation.

2. Bank Account Certificate

A Chinese company’s bank account certificate proves that they are the genuine holder of the business bank account shown on the certificate. This can be a useful way to avoid some of the more blatant kinds of scams and fraud out there. If you make a payment to the verified bank account shown on a company’s bank account certificate, you know that your payment is actually going to that company, and that it’s not a personal account from which the money might “disappear”. There are also many more protections and restrictions on licensed business bank accounts, so you’re safer in that respect, too.

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Again, though, there are caveats. Most companies in China operate several bank accounts, for example to handle different currencies or different aspects of business. In these cases, it is likely that only one account will actually have a license associated with it. There is not necessarily anything untoward about this situation. What’s more important is that you always pay to business accounts and not personal accounts. You can read more about the situation with licensed accounts here. You can also verify a bank account certificate.

3. Tax License

A Chinese company’s tax license is also known as its tax registration certificate. Tax registration takes place after a company has successfully acquired a business license, and covers much of the same details as a business license, including:

  • official name
  • business address
  • scope of operation

and other details. This can be a useful supplement for basic corroboration of information shown on the business license of the supplier in China. Also, inability to show a copy of a valid tax registration certificate would be quite suspicious.

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The drawback to using tax registration documents to confirm details about a company is that:

  • Like business licenses, they are easily faked or altered in photoshop.
  • Unlike business licenses, there is no publicly accessible way to confirm the details shown on them.

In other words, it is possible to retrieve the registration record of a company to confirm the details of its business license, if you know what you’re doing. This reduces the possibility of forgery or alteration. With a tax license, though, you can only take the supplier’s word for it, which clearly reduces its utility for confirming details about a company. Verify this document.

4. ISO 9001 Certificate

An ISO 9001 certificate demonstrates a supplier in China has implemented adequate systems for:

  • Quality management
  • Management responsibility
  • Resource management
  • Product realisation
  • Measurement, analysis and improvement

(Or at least that it has convinced an auditor that it has adequate systems for these areas).

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An ISO 9001 audit is a very common type of inspection, and can be obtained either by the supplier itself, or by interested parties who can request an audit of the supplier. There is no shortage of third party organisations that can offer an ISO 9001 audit in China.

Requesting a copy of a Chinese supplier’s ISO 9001 certificate (or ordering the audit yourself) is another standard step to take before placing any orders with them. As always, there is the potential for deception, so viewing the certificate is not enough. You need to identify the ISO 9001 registrar that granted the certificate (this will be given on the document), and independently confirm with that registrar that they have the company and certificate on record.

It’s also important to confirm which specific processes and operations a supplier actually holds ISO 9001 certification for; they may hold certification for some processes or some factories, but not for others. Further, it’s wise to confirm that the registrar that gave the certification is itself accredited (e.g. by CNAS in China). You can verify a Chinese ISO 9001 certificate here.

5. ISO 14001 Certificate

You could think of an ISO 14001 certificate as being an ISO 9001 for resource management, and by extension, for environmental concerns. In other words, it certifies a company’s resource management systems in the same way that ISO 9001 certifies their quality management systems. ISO 14001 relates to environmental concerns in that it is about reducing waste and improving efficiency. As you can imagine, this is becoming increasingly desirable for companies around the world as greater focus is given to the environmental aspects of manufacturing. However, ISO 14001 is not really about environmental friendliness; it’s about efficiency of resource use.

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Just like ISO 9001, ISO 14001 certification is acquired by convincing an auditor that a company’s resource management fulfils certain criteria. An auditor is able to grant ISO 14001 from a particular registrar, and that registrar can get itself accredited by an accreditation body. Again, it’s important to actually confirm the details of an ISO 14001 certificate your supplier has shown you with the registrar that gave the certificate, and to check if the registrar is accredited. Verify an ISO 14001 Certificate.

6. Product Test Report

You will most likely require a product test report from your supplier in China, ideally at several points of the production process, to confirm that the goods are being produced to the standard you require. What testing specifications you require, when the tests are carried out and by whom are all things that need to be determined. Be wary of suppliers who attempt to show product test certifications they hold for other products that are not the one you’re interested in.

Further, there is another product testing issue that some importers overlook, and overlooking it can be an expensive mistake to make. If you’re importing products manufactured in China into your own country, there’s a good chance you will need certification showing that the products meet relevant standards in your country. Many categories of products require this kind of certification, electronics and toys being common examples. Product tests have to be carried out on the goods before they are shipped, and certification will be required by your country’s customs officials. Lacking the specific product testing certification that is required could mean that you can never get hold of your products despite them having arrived in your country, and the only responsible party would be you.

Because of this, it’s inadvisable to rely on your supplier in China to either

  1. Acquire the required certifications required for importing the specific products into your country, or
  2. Even be aware of which product testing certifications are required.

This is something that you should confirm yourself, by researching the necessary product testing certifications, and having a third party certify the product as early as possible. As always, be wary of trickery: ensure the certifications are carried out by an accredited third party, and independently confirm the certification and accreditation with the next organisation up the chain. Verify a product test report.

7. Product Brochure – From Your Supplier in China

A supplier’s product brochure probably isn’t too difficult to understand, but there is one issue to be aware of regarding Chinese supplier’s product brochures. It’s not uncommon for Chinese suppliers to include products in their brochures that they don’t produce themselves, but can act as a trading company for and source from other suppliers. This can be a disappointing discovery to make if you thought you were dealing directly with the manufacturer of your products. You were dealing with a genuine supplier and manufacturer, but in your case they were acting as a trading company. These sorts of issues can be avoided through factory visits and proper auditing.

Matt Slater
Matt Slater


Hi there, I'm a British-Australian Engineer and Entrepreneur, recently moved back to Brisbane, Australia after nearly 9 years living in Shanghai. I founded China Checkup in 2013 because I was frustrated by the scarcity of concise, high-quality and timely information about Chinese companies.
My team are proud that China Checkup's verification reports now help clients worldwide do business in China safely. Have any questions? Email me at info@chinacheckup.com


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