Unified Social Credit Code Explained
What: A unique, 18-digit national business registration number issued to all businesses and other entities in China, the Unified Social Credit Code is an official indication that a company is registered and verified with the Chinese government to operate legally in Mainland China.
Why: Like many official government forms, documents, and registration numbers, the Unified Social Credit Code is another data point that, once verified, can help you determine and cross-check that a Chinese company is a legitimate business operating legally within China.
As you begin your research, planning, and due diligence activities in preparation for doing business with a potential Chinese company, you’ll encounter many different official registration numbers and codes that indicate the company you’re considering is a legitimate, verified operation and is approved by the Chinese government to do business. One of the most critical is the Unified Social Credit Code, a unique 18-digit registration number issued to all companies and entities in doing business in Mainland China, including sole proprietors, charities, hospitals, and even schools. Since they are treated as separate jurisdictions, businesses in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau do not use the Unified Social Credit Code.
A number that is unique at the national level, the Unified Social Credit Code does not change over time and cannot be transferred.
Unified Social Credit Code: Origins
As we’ve discussed in other articles about China’s efforts to rationalize, streamline, and consolidate duplicate or redundant state agencies and processes, the Chinese government sought to make the process of company registration more efficient. The Unified Social Credit Code was created in 2015, consolidating information that was previously found on other company documents including the business license, organization code, tax registration number, and statistical registration number.
Unified Social Credit Code: Decoded
The Unified Social Credit Code, known in Chinese as 统一社会信用代码, can also be referred to by several other names, including the Chinese Business Registration Number, Tax Identification Number (TIN), Unified Social Credit Number (USCN), or Unified Social Credit Indicator (USCI).
Unified Social Credit Code: Composition
The Unified Social Credit Code follows a standard pattern according to the following criteria:
Digit 1 represents the registering authority
Digit 2 represents the registered entity type
Digits 3 through 8 represent the registering region code
Digits 9 through 17 represent the organization code
Digit 18 represents the check digit
Below we explain additional details for each segment.
Digit 1: Registering authority
Most often this segment begins with a 9, a digit assigned to represent the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) as the registering authority.
Digit 2: Registered entity type
This number indicates the type of business (or entity) for this particular registration. The most common entity types in China are:
Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises (WFOE): 外商独资企业
Joint Ventures (JV): 合资
Representative Office: 代表处
State-Owned Enterprise (SOE): 国有企业
Private Enterprise: 民营企业
Digits 3 through 8: Registering region code
Sometimes referred to as the “administrative division code,” this string of six numbers indicates where the company is registered. They roughly follow the organization of the official Chinese regions.
Digits 9 through 17: Organization code
These nine digits come directly from the China Organization Code certificate, an alternative document to the China Business License.
Digit 18: Check digit
This singular entry – represented by either a number or a letter – is a safety measure that allows Chinese authorities to confirm that the Unified Social Credit code is indeed valid.
Unified Social Credit Code: Issuers
The most common issuer of a Unified Social Credit Code remains the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, or SAIC. Note that in the next 12 to 24 months, the SAIC itself will be merged with other state agencies into an entity known as the State Administration for Market Regulation or SAMR). Other entities or authorities also may issue the Unified Social Credit Code depending on what type of organization is seeking registration.
Unified Social Credit Code: Identifying and sourcing
Ask the company: Most Chinese companies now are familiar with the Unified Social Credit Code and can provide it to you on request.
Locate it on the company’s business license: You’ll find a company’s Unified Social Credit Code on its business license next to the Chinese characters 统一社会信用代码.
Locate it on other official documentation or certificates: Since its successful roll out and implementation, the Unified Social Credit Code is found on a range of common official Chinese documents such as the Foreign Trade Registration Certificate and the China ISO9001 Certificate.
Conduct a digital search: You often can find a company’s Unified Social Credit Code on China's National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System; on Alibaba; or on any number of popular sourcing websites.
Enlist the help of Nuna Network: We offer a range of verification services that can help you determine the veracity and authenticity of a company’s records and other important information.
As with many Chinese documents, it’s important to conduct due diligence to ensure the Unified Social Credit Code is valid. Nuna Network provides verification services that can help you determine the authenticity of this and many other documents that are a part of establishing a business relationship with a Chinese company.
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