Nuna Network

Knowledge Base

Get started with business partners in China.

Featured Articles

Protect Your Business

2 days. $159. Comprehensive report on your Chinese partners.

Key Documents

Business in China

Background on China

Recent Articles

Customs Enterprise Classification System Explained

customs enterprise classification code.jpeg

What: A classification system used by Chinese customs officials that ranks companies engaged in import and export activities.

Why: Companies in good standing receive top ratings and enjoy benefits including reduced restrictions, faster customs clearance, and support.  

As you begin your research, planning, and due diligence activities in preparation for doing business with a potential Chinese company, you’ll likely encounter several terms, classification schemes, and rating systems that categorize Chinese companies according to various metrics. (Explore our articles on the China Foreign Trade Registration and the China Customs Registration). One important system is the China Customs Enterprise Classification system that ranks companies engaged in import and export activities.

China customs introduced a new Customs Enterprise Classification system in May 2018 to align more closely with a comprehensive nationwide overhaul of the country’s social credit system. (The previous system ranked companies along a five-point system: AA, A, B, D, or D; from highest to lowest ranking)

China Customs Enterprise Classification System: Decoded

There are four levels in the classification system:

  1. Advanced Certified Enterprise

  2. General Certified Enterprise

  3. General-Credit Enterprise

  4. Discredited Enterprise

In addition to these new classification levels, the new system also allows companies with stellar records to apply for an Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) status. AEO designation provides certain companies with simplified processes, release from excessive inspections, and other benefits. You’ll see that designation appear in the first two ranking levels below.  

1. Advanced Certified Enterprises

  • Rating: Three stars

  • Certified: AEO status is confirmed

  • Chinese: 高级认证企业

  • Also referred to as: "Senior Certified Enterprise", "Advanced Authorized Enterprise"

The highest authorization level affords companies with pre-arrival customs declaration, designated customs coordinators, and reduced inspection rates. Companies must apply to renew and reauthorize this status every three years.

2. General Certified Enterprises

  • Rating: Two stars

  • Certified: AEO status is confirmed

  • Chinese: 一般认证企业

  • Also known as: "General Authorized Enterprise"

Companies with this status enjoy priority status when clearing goods through customs and reduced inspection rates.   

3. General-Credit Enterprises

  • Rating: One star

  • Certified: AEO status not granted  

  • In Chinese: 一般信用企业

  • Other translations: "General Enterprise"

Companies with a regular social credit rating that have not applied for AEO status fall into this category.

4. Discredited Enterprises

  • Rating: No stars

  • Certified: AEO status not granted  

  • In Chinese: 失信

  • Other translations: "Dishonest Enterprise"

Companies with this rating are subject to very strict rules and regulations with their import and export activities, including more stringent audits and inspections.

China Customs Enterprise Classification System: Comparison

The table below shows approximately how the new classification system compares with the previous one.

Previous Classification System
New Customs Enterprise Classification System
Customs Enterprise Classification System Logo
AAAdvanced Certified Enterprise
AGeneral Certified Enterprise
BGeneral-Credit Enterprise
C, DDiscredited Enterprise

You’ll notice that the official logo for both the Advanced Certified Enterprise and the General Certified Enterprise also carry the “AEO” designation.

Nuna Network remains the partner of choice for small- and medium-sized businesses seeking guidance and support in researching, developing, and launching relationships with companies in China. We are your go-to resource for valuable information in navigating the sometimes complex landscape of business operations in China. Explore additional introductory guides, lists, and how-to articles that we’ve developed to help you get started.

Want to write for Nuna Network? Apply to create a guest post.

Business in ChinaMingyun