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Investment Options in China

Foreign investment in China offers numerous pathways for businesses. Heres a detailed look at the primary investment options in China:

1. Representative Office (RO)

A Representative Office (RO) is a cost-effective way for foreign companies to explore the Chinese market. Though ROs cannot directly engage in profit-making activities, they can conduct market research, promote products, and coordinate activities on behalf of the parent company.

Requirements and Registered Capital

  • No registered capital is required.

  • The parent company must have been established for at least two years.

Establishment Timeframe

  • Document Preparation: 1 month for notarization and legalization.

  • Setup: 1-2 months for account and chop establishment.

  • Total Time: Approximately 2 months.

Key Positions

  • Chief Representative: Authorized to sign documents.

  • General Representatives: Up to three additional representatives.

2. Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE)

A Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE) is ideal for foreign investors seeking full control over their operations in China. WFOEs can engage in a wide range of activities, including manufacturing, trading, and services.

Types of WFOEs

  1. Service (Consulting) WFOE

  2. Trading WFOE (FICE)

  3. Manufacturing WFOE

Requirements and Registered Capital

  • Registered Capital: No minimum requirement, but should be sufficient for operational needs.

Establishment Timeframe

  • Duration: 2 to 9 months depending on company size and complexity.

Key Positions

Shareholders and Executive Director (or Board of Directors)

  • Authority: Execute major company decisions.

  • Flexibility: Recent laws allow better power distribution among shareholders, directors, and executives.


  • Role: Oversee company duties.

  • Compliance: Directors and senior management cannot serve as supervisors simultaneously.

3. Foreign Invested Commercial Enterprise (FICE)

A FICE is a specialized type of WFOE designed for trading activities, including import, export, wholesale, and retail. It provides a streamlined approach for foreign investors to conduct trading operations in China.

Requirements and Registered Capital

  • Similar to WFOE, with a focus on trading regulations and licenses.

Establishment Timeframe

  • Typically 2 to 4 months.

4. Joint Venture (JV)

A Joint Venture (JV) involves a partnership between foreign investors and Chinese entities. JVs can be structured as either Equity Joint Ventures (EJV) or Cooperative Joint Ventures (CJV). This structure leverages local market knowledge and resources.

Requirements and Registered Capital

  • Capital Requirements: Varies based on industry and business scope.

  • Agreements: Detailed contracts between partners are essential.

Establishment Timeframe

  • Generally takes 3 to 6 months.

5. Foreign Invested Partnership (FIP)

A Foreign Invested Partnership (FIP) offers flexibility with no minimum registered capital requirement, making it an attractive option for foreign investors looking for profit-sharing arrangements.

Requirements and Registered Capital

  • Capital Contribution: Based on operational needs.

Establishment Timeframe

  • Typically 2 to 4 months.

Key Positions

  • General Partner(s): Manage operations with unlimited liability.

  • Limited Partner(s): Liability limited to their capital contribution, not involved in daily management.

Additional Considerations for Setting Up a Business in China

Economic Growth and Market Potential

China’s robust economic growth and large market offer significant opportunities for foreign businesses. Understanding local market dynamics is crucial for success.

Cultural and Regulatory Challenges

Navigating cultural nuances, regulatory requirements, and local business practices can be challenging. Engaging local expertise and building strong relationships are essential.

Intellectual Property Protection

Protecting intellectual property rights is a critical aspect of doing business in China. Ensure robust IP protection measures are in place.

Can Woodburn help you?


Woodburn Accountants & Advisors is one of China’s most trusted business setup advisory firms.

Woodburn Accountants & Advisors is specialized in inbound investment to China and Hong Kong. We focus on eliminating the complexities of corporate services and compliance administration. We help clients with services ranging from trademark registration and company incorporation to the full outsourcing solution for accounting, tax, and human resource services. Our advisory services can be tailor-made based on the companies’ objectives, goals and needs which vary depending on the stage they are at on their journey.


Talk to an expert

Schedule a 30-mins complimentary, no-obligation call to see how Woodburn can help you. Book a call with our Head of Business Advisory - Kristina Koehler-Coluccia.

Topics we can advise on include:

  • Company Registration

  • Cloud Accounting & Financial Reporting

  • Cloud Payroll Services

  • Tax & Audit Services

  • Recruitment

  • Employer-of-Record

  • Visa Application

  • Trademark Registration

  • Switch to Woodburn

  • Partner with Woodburn (cross referral) 

Our calls are automatically scheduled via Zoom - or via Teams, WeChat or WhatsApp upon direct request. 

Our advisory calls are available from Monday-Friday from 8am to 5pm CEST and Wednesday until 9pm CEST.



Woodburn Accountants & Advisors is one of China and Hong Kong’s
most trusted business setup advisory firms

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