Open a Representative Office in China

Representative Office Registration – Building Your Business Presence in China.

Designed primarily for businesses aiming to understand the landscape, conduct market research, and foster relationships, a Representative Office in China serves as a liaison between the parent company abroad and potential local partners.


Quick registration: Usually completed within a month.


Ideal for market research, client liaison, and global networking.


Operate indirect businesses like contracting, product promotions, and technical communications.

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Open a Representative Office in China

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bank of beijing
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bank of beijing

What is a Representative Office in China

A Flexible Presence for Exploring the Chinese Market

A Representative Office (RO), also known as a Liaison Office, offers foreign companies a flexible and low-cost way to establish an initial foothold in China’s complex business landscape. Unlike a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE) or Joint Venture (JV), the RO model does not constitute a separate legal entity. Instead, it operates as a satellite office of the foreign parent company.

Registration of a Representative Office usually takes around one month. The key advantages of this model are speed and simplicity of setup, without major capital requirements. ROs provide a legal means for foreign firms to conduct market research, build local business networks, and undertake preparatory work before possible fuller investment.

Specifically, permitted activities include promotional campaigns, client meetings, technical exchanges, and interacting with suppliers and partners. However, ROs cannot engage in direct profit-making activities. They are not allowed to invoice customers, sign binding contracts, or conduct sales in their own name.

In practice, ROs serve as an insightful window into the Chinese marketplace. They allow foreign companies to hire local staff and gain on-the-ground experience. While ROs do not replace full-fledged subsidiaries for companies seeking commercial presence, they offer an incremental first step with realistic investment.

Business Scope for a China Representative Office

While unable to engage in direct profit-generating activities, Representative Offices in China can undertake a range of useful market-entry functions under the supervision of their foreign parent company.

Within the parameters of current regulations, permitted business activities include:

  • Contracting – An RO can facilitate contracting work on behalf of the parent entity. This includes identifying potential partners, negotiating deals, and liaising between parties. However, the RO cannot officially sign or execute contracts itself.
  • Product Promotions – ROs are allowed to promote, market, and advertise the products/services of the parent company. This enables raising brand awareness and generating leads through local PR and campaigns.
  • Market Research – Conducting surveys, focus groups, and investigative studies to gain consumer and industry insights is a valuable application of an RO. The learnings can inform future strategy and investment decisions.
  • Technical Exchanges – ROs can serve as a conduit for technological knowledge sharing between the foreign company and local partners, academics, or government bodies. These exchanges can support localization initiatives.
  • Business Development – Scouting potential opportunities, networking with influencers, and laying the groundwork for future partnerships are constructive ways an RO can contribute.

While constrained from direct participation in sales and profits, Representative Offices contribute through vital preparatory legwork. They perform instrumental backstage roles to ready foreign companies for deeper entry when the time comes. With local staff and facilities, ROs can significantly de-risk and expedite expansion into China.

The Advantages of Our RO Setup Services in China

For foreign companies seeking an initial foothold in China, we make the RO establishment process as seamless as possible. Our full-service assistance reduces risk and provides complete peace of mind.


Expertise and Efficiency

  • Our locally-based, bilingual professionals leverage decades of on-the-ground experience to handle every step of the RO setup process smoothly and efficiently.
  • We streamline paperwork, government liaising, and approval procedures to get your RO registered quickly.
  • Our intricate knowledge of regulatory requirements helps minimize delays and avoid potential pitfalls.

Ongoing Support and Compliance

  • We assist with license renewals, tax filings, audits, and other compliance needs after the initial setup.
  • Our aftercare support ensures your RO continues operating legally and trouble-free.
  • We stay up-to-date on China’s constantly evolving rules to guarantee full statutory compliance.

Cost and Convenience

  • Our insider relationships with licensing bureaus facilitates registration and negotiations.
  • Our experience allows us to secure the best rates from vendors and suppliers.
  • By relying on our localized experts, you can focus on high-level planning rather than operational details.
  • Our end-to-end assistance provides complete peace of mind throughout the RO establishment process.
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Comparing Key Entity Structures for Foreign Firms in China. What entity type is best for your business in China

RO vs WFOE vs JV

Representative Office (RO)

ROs provide the fastest setup and lowest risk for market entry. They serve as an intermediary step before fuller commitment.

  • Simplest and fastest registration process (1 month)
  • No requirement for registered capital
  • Allows market research, networking, promotions
  • No direct business activities or revenue generation

Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE)

WFOE offers the most business freedom, it also requires the greatest time and monetary investment.

  • Independent Chinese subsidiary
  • Full foreign ownership and control
  • Broader business scope with direct sales
  • Substantial registered capital required
  • Longer registration time (2-3 months)

Joint Venture (JV)

JVs allow entering partnerships but involve loss of control.

  • Partnership with a Chinese company
  • Share control and profits
  • Access to local partner’s resources
  • Complex negotiation and setup process

Pros and Cons of a China Representative Office

Representative Offices offer foreign companies a flexible path to establish an initial presence in China’s complex business environment. While the RO model has many advantages, it also comes with inherent limitations to consider.


Advantages of a China RO:

  • Fast and simple setup process (typically 1 month)
  • Low establishment costs, no minimum capital required
  • Allows hiring local Chinese staff
  • Enables market research, networking, promotions
  • Provides physical office and presence in China
  • Lowers tax burden compared to other entity types

Disadvantages of a China RO:

  • Cannot engage in direct profit-making activities
  • No direct sales, contracting, or business transactions
  • Limited only to supporting the foreign parent company
  • Strict restrictions on business scope and activities
  • Challenges directly hiring and managing local staff
  • Requires local partners for full business functions

While ROs should not replace more advanced subsidiary models for companies seeking revenue generation, they offer an easy first step to test the Chinese market. For foreign firms that take the time to understand both the advantages and limitations, ROs can pave the way for more permanent establishment down the road.

steps to register a wfoe company in China

How to Register a Representative Office in China

A Step-by-Step Guide to RO Incorporation

Establishing a Representative Office (RO) allows foreign companies to gain an initial foothold in China. While the setup process is straightforward, meticulous preparation and compliance are key. Follow these critical steps to register your RO smoothly:

Step 1:

  • Prepare Documentation
  • Collate required documents like parent company licenses, director IDs, and authorization letters. Notarize and translate materials into Chinese.

Step 2:

  • Obtain Office Space and Tenancy Contract
  • Secure leased office premises and obtain documentation like the lease agreement and landlord licenses.

Step 3:

  • Apply for RO Registration
  • Submit all materials to the local Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC) to file your RO application.

Step 4:

  • Obtain Business License
  • Once approved, the AIC will issue your RO business license and legal representative seal/chop.

Step 5:

  • Apply for Additional Licenses
  • Acquire supporting permits/certificates from Public Security Bureau, Statistics Bureau, Tax Bureau, and bank.

Step 6:

  • Hire Local Representatives
  • Recruit and appoint suitable local staff such as a Chief Representative to manage daily operations.

    Step 7:

    • Maintain Compliance
    • Stay legally compliant after setup with requirements like annual audits, tax filings, and renewals.

      The incorporation process takes around 1-2 months with expert assistance. While straightforward in theory, local experience is invaluable for avoiding pitfalls. Corporation China has the seasoned specialists to guide your RO registration from start to finish.

      Preparing the Necessary Materials

      Essential Documents for China RO Registration

      When applying to register a Representative Office (RO) in China, foreign parent companies must submit an array of documentation to the authorities. Some key materials required include:

      Required Documentation for WFOE Company Formation In China
      • Parent Company Documents – The Certificate of Incorporation, Articles of Association, and corporate licenses/permits must be provided to demonstrate legitimacy of the parent entity.
      • Proof of Operational History – Materials verifying that the parent firm has been in business for 2+ years are required for RO eligibility.
      • Board Authorization – Official letters authorizing the proposed Chief Representative and other RO personnel to act on behalf of the parent company.
      • Passports and Resumes – Copies of passports, photos, resumes/CVs, and background details for the nominated RO Representatives.
      • Tenancy Contracts – The lease agreement for the RO office space and supporting documents from landlord. Minimum 1 year term.
      • Bank References – A letter from the parent company’s bank certifying no issues, to show financial standing.
      • Scope of Operations – A detailed description of the parent company’s global business activities and the proposed RO functions.

      All documentation provided must be notarized by the relevant Chinese embassy/consulate in the parent company’s home country prior to submission. Proper preparation of these materials is essential for timely approval. At Corporation China, our experts will ensure you have all necessary documents in order.

      Ready to Start a Representative Office Registration in China

      Eager to grow? Outline your plan, and our team will make it happen.

      Start your business journey in China and join our community of 1,500+ clients partnering with Corporation China.

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      bank of beijing
      tmall 2
      bank of beijing

      Top 10 FAQs on China RO Registration

      Answers to Common Questions about the Representative office Formation Process:

      How long does RO registration take?

      The full process usually takes 1-2 months with expert assistance. The business license approval itself takes around 4 weeks.

      What setup costs are involved?

      There is no minimum capital requirement, but costs apply for registration, licensing, hiring staff, renting office space, etc.

      What are the ongoing compliance requirements?

      ROs must file taxes, audit reports, renew licenses, and more. Expert help is advised to remain fully legally compliant.

      Can an RO hire employees directly?

      ROs cannot directly hire staff. Employees must be engaged via third-party HR agencies.

      Are ROs limited to certain activities?

      Yes, ROs cannot engage in direct profit-making activities and sales. They play a supporting role.

      Can an RO open a local bank account?

      Yes, RO registration allows opening a RMB bank account with the parent company's name.

      Does an RO have minimum office requirements?

      Yes, the RO must maintain a physical office appropriate for registration locality. Virtual offices are not accepted.

      Can an RO issue official receipts and invoices?

      No, ROs cannot issue invoices or receipts in their own name or bill clients directly.

      Are there geographic restrictions for ROs?

      RO registration must be done in an appropriately sized city based on business scope.

      Can a foreign firm have more than one RO?

      Yes, it is possible to establish multiple ROs in different Chinese cities, each registered separately.

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