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Certifying Chinese Documents’ Authenticity

Many official Chinese business documents can be subject to alterations, forgeries, or editing making them invalid, but there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the risk of accepting and using an altered document.

With the number of documents, certificates, processes, and procedures required to set up a relationship with a business in China, it’s important to know that the materials required are official and valid to ensure the relationship begins and continues smoothly.


As we explored previously in Verifying a Chinese company in three easy steps,” we discussed briefly the importance of validating the authenticity of a Chinese company’s documents and certificates when considering doing business with that entity. Some recent studies estimate that up to 20% of Chinese documents are not legitimate or have undergone some type of editing or alteration that would render them invalid. The most common Chinese documents that you should investigate include business licenses, bank account certificates, foreign trade registration certificates, ISO 9001 certificates, customs registration certificates, test reports, and pro-forma invoices.

Below, we explore five ways you can check the authenticity and legitimacy of these Chinese business certificates and licenses.

• Verify Chinese certificates via a database search

• Research authenticity by contacting the certificate’s issuer

• Examine the documents for contradictions

• Conduct error-level analyses on the documents

• Partner with Nuna Network for expert guidance

Verify Chinese certificates via a database search

Numerous certification and registration organizations in China maintain current digital resources that enable you to verify the details of Chinese business certificates and licenses. While some offer this information only in Chinese, and others may block IP addresses from outside China, these resources provide a valuable first stem in your verification process. Here are a range of database resources for researching the authenticity of specific Chinese business documents:

  • Check Chinese business licenses using the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System

  • Investigate China foreign trade registrations by conducting a search on the China

  • Ministry of Commerce Business System

  • Authenticate China trademark registrations using the China Online Trademark Checking System

  • Verify Chinese customs registrations using the China Customs Credit Publicity Platform of Import and Export Business

  • Explore a Chinese company’s laboratory accreditation and certification body details using the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS) database

  • Research the company’s management system certifications (such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001) and its product certifications (including China's CCC certificate) on the CNCA Certification Information Checking System

  • Verify certificates of incorporation for Hong Kong companies by using the Integrated Companies Registry Information System (ICRIS)

As with any investigation, you should carefully compare the documents’ contents against the results you receive from the database or other online resource platform. You should never take any document you receive at face value.

Nuna Network’s Company Verification Report also can help kick-start your research efforts in checking Chinese licenses and business certificates.

Research authenticity by contacting the certificate’s issuer

The above databases and research platforms may not yield the verifying information on some classes of Chinese documents. In particular, Chinese test reports, ISO certifications, and shipping clearance documents may be difficult to verify using a database. (See the following section, Examine the documents for contradictions, for more information.)

Once you’ve identified the Chinese document’s issuer – usually gleaned from examining the document’s certification marks or logos – you’ll want to locate the contact details and then contact the issuing organization.

Examine the documents for contradictions

But what if you can’t check the Chinese business certificate or license against database records or the documents don’t include the issuing organization? While these circumstances sometimes can indicate the document is a forgery, that conclusion isn’t always the case. You can be on the lookout for some common mistakes that often appear on false documents:

  • Test reports that discuss standards that aren’t a part of the testing entity’s scope of

    accreditation,

  • ISO certificates that lack a scope of certification, or

  • Bills of lading that lack the ship’s name, its lading port, or its discharge port. You can use

  • VesselFinder.com to verify the ship’s dates and routes.

Conduct error-level analyses on the documents

Determining if documents have been altered or falsified sometimes requires a more atomic-level investigation of their properties and qualities. You can uncover discrepancies and alterations by conducting what is known as error-level analysis, a process that determines if a digital image has been altered at any point in its history.

When an original document is changed and then saved a second (or subsequent) time(s), some information from the original is lost (what is known as the error level) as part of the compression process. Photo and image forensic software programs can help you reveal the segments of a document that have been edited or altered from its original state.

Partner with Nuna Network for expert guidance

We understand that the process of checking Chinese business certificates and licenses for authenticity can seem daunting and time-consuming to carry out yourself. Nuna Network offers a variety of products and services to help you navigate the sometimes complex landscape of Chinese license and business certificate verifications.

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