Learn about the China economy
China is a complex and ever-changing market. It is also vast geographically and shouldn’t be considered as just one market; exporters need to carefully consider the city/province in which they wish to conduct business.
In addition to the obvious cultural and language complexities, China also presents a complicated political, business, taxation and currency environment for foreign entities. Success in China is largely dependent on conducting comprehensive market research and obtaining expert advice before embarking on export activities.
Despite the challenges, China’s large, increasingly affluent population presents enormous opportunities for those Australian exporters prepared to make the effort.
|Currency||Yuan Renminbi (CNY)|
|Currency exchange||Check rate|
|Population||1,392.73 million (2018, Source: The World Bank)|
|Political structure||Socialist Republic, run by the Communist Party of China|
|GDP per capita||USD 9,770.8 (2018, Source: The World Bank)|
6.2% (2019 forecast)
6.1% (2020 forecast)
6.0% (2021 forecast)
ANZ has engaged Export Council of Australia (“ECA”) as a primary contributor to this website. The views and opinions expressed in the following content are those of ECA and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.
Learn about how China rates on various economic and ease of doing business measures
Click the topics below to find out more.
3.29 (2018, Source: The World Bank Logistics Performance Index)
Ranked 31 out of 190 countries (2019, Source: The World Bank)
6.2% (2019 forecast)
6.1% (2020 forecast)
6.0% (2021 forecast)
(Source: World Bank Global Economic Prospects Report)
USD 9,770.8 (2018, Source: The World Bank)
2.07% (2018, Source: The World Bank)
3.61 (2018, Source: The World Bank Logistics Performance Index)
-0.26 (2018, Source: The World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators)
Ranked 87 out of 180 countries (2018, Source: Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index)
Corporate tax rate
Corporate income tax ("CIT") - standard tax rate is 25%, but the tax rate could be reduced to 15% for qualified enterprises which are engaged in industries encouraged by the China government (e.g. New/high Tech Enterprises and certain integrated circuits production enterprises). Tax holiday is also offered to enterprises engaged in encouraged industries. Other CIT incentives are also available for tax resident enterprises in China.
Withholding income tax on payments to non-residents – a concessionary rate of 10% – is currently applicable to interest, rental, royalty and other passive income.
Individual income tax ("IIT"): progressive rates range from 3% to 45%.
* Although the corporate tax rate is relatively low in China, the tax system is very complex, with multiple layers of taxation. It is important to note the various taxes applicable and obtain the advice of a taxation expert when conducting business in China. Other taxes include:
- Tax on transactions (turnover tax), including VAT, Consumption Tax and Business Tax
- Tax on Specific Objective
- Tax on Resource
- Tax on Property
- Tax on Behaviour
- Tax levied by Customs
- Tax levied by Finance Department
The time required for goods to clear customs in China is 72 hours in border compliance and 54 hours in documentary compliance. The cost to import is USD 790 for border compliance and USD 150 for documentary compliance.
Source: Doing Business, The World Bank, 2017
Typical documents required for imports are:
Required and used for the opening of payment terms.
Bill of lading/Airway bill
Required formatted depending on contractual and payment arrangements.
Two copies are required.
Certificate of origin
Required, depending on claims for preferential duty treatment.
Normal commercial practice.
Weights and measures
The metric system.
For more information visit: General Administration of Customs People’s Republic of China
Foreign direct investment
Specific regulations concerning the investment within China of foreign-invested enterprises:
According to the Interim Provisions Concerning the Investment within China of Foreign-invested Enterprises jointly issued by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, investment within China of foreign-invested enterprises refers to Sino-foreign equity joint ventures, Sino-foreign contractual joint ventures and wholly foreign-owned enterprises which are established within China according to law in the form of a limited liability company, as well as the establishment of enterprises in their own name, or purchase of equity shares from other enterprises (hereinafter referred to as "invested companies") within China by foreign-invested joint stock companies limited.
- Conditions for a foreign-invested enterprise to make investment in China
- Its registered capital has been paid off;
- It has started to make profits;
- It has been conducting business operations according to law and has no track record of illegal business operations.
- The cumulative amount of investment within China made by a foreign-invested enterprise shall not exceed 50 percent of its net assets; in the wake of investment, the amount of the capital increase from the profits of the invested company is not included here.
- For investment within China, foreign-invested enterprises should, for reference, consult the Interim Provisions for Guiding Foreign Investment and the Industrial Catalogue for Foreign Investment. Foreign-invested enterprises shall not make investments in the fields in which foreign investment is prohibited.
- Examination and Approval Procedures
- To establish a company in the encouraged or permitted categories, a foreign-invested enterprise shall file an application with the company registration authorities in the locality where the invested company is to be located. The company registration authorities shall, in accordance with the relevant stipulations of the Company Law and the Rules for the Administration of Company Registration of the People's Republic of China, decide whether to grant registration or not. Should registration be granted, a Business License of the Enterprise Legal Person is issued, and the note of "investment by foreign-invested enterprise" is added in the column of enterprise classification [hereinafter abbreviated as (annotated) Business License].
- To establish a company in the restricted category, a foreign-invested enterprise shall file an application with the authorities for foreign trade and economic cooperation at the provincial level in the locality where the invested company is to be located. Upon receipt of the above-mentioned application, the examination and ratification department at the provincial level shall, in line with the invested company's scope of business operations, consult the opinion of the regulatory authorities at the same level or at the national level.
- If the examination and ratification department at the provincial level gives permit to a foreign-invested enterprise, the enterprise shall, upon presentation of the permit, file an application for registration with the company registration department in the locality where the invested company is to be located.
- The company registration department shall, in accordance with the relevant stipulations of the Rules for the Administration of Company Registration, decide whether to grant registration or not. Should registration be granted, a (annotated) Business License will be issued.
- In cases where a foreign-invested enterprise purchases equity shares from the invested company whose scope of business falls into the encouraged or permitted categories, the invested company shall file an application for registration alteration with the previous registration department.
- In cases where the invested company's scope of business involves fields in the restricted category, the foreign-invested company shall go through the procedures specified in Item b. The invested company shall, upon presentation of the permit by the examination and ratification department at the provincial level, file an application with the previous company registration department for registration alteration.
- The company registration department shall, in compliance with the relevant stipulations in the Rules for the Administration of Company Registration, decide to grant registration or not. In cases where registration is granted, a (annotated) Business License will be issued.
- Should the invested company be a foreign-invested enterprise, procedures should follow the Provisions on the Alteration of Investors Equity of Foreign-invested Enterprises.
- Investment within China made by investment companies established with foreign investment shall follow the state laws and regulations concerning foreign investment as well as the Provisional Regulations Concerning the Establishment of Foreign-funded Investment Companies.
- Investment within China made jointly by foreign investors and foreign-invested enterprises shall follow the state laws and regulations concerning foreign investment. In such an investment project, the percentage of investment contributions by foreign investors shall generally not be lower than 25 percent of the registered capital of the invested enterprise.
- Treatments for Foreign-invested Enterprises Which Make Investment in China
- The state encourages foreign-invested enterprises to invest in the central and western regions. If the percentage of foreign investment in the registered capital of the invested company is not lower than 25 percent, the invested company can enjoy the treatment available for foreign- invested enterprises.
- An invested company in the central and western regions shall, upon presentation of the Approval Certificate for Enterprises with Foreign Investment and the (annotated) Business License, enjoy the treatment available for foreign-invested enterprises as provided for by laws and regulations.
You can register intellectual property (IP) in China for trademarks, patents, designs and copyright. In China, separate government bodies administer patents, trademarks and copyright protection.
In general terms, the process of registering IP rights in China is slower and more expensive than in Australia. Unless you have a residential or business address in China, applications must be filed through Chinese agents or attorneys.
Documents filed with the State Intellectual Property Office of China or the China Trade Mark Office need to be submitted in Chinese. Translation fees should be factored into the total cost of applications.
Administration and enforcement of IP laws in China is quite different to Australia. Enforcement of IP rights is available through both administrative and judicial avenues.
IP protection remains a challenge in China, where misappropriation of trade secrets and other forms of IP is commonplace. It is strongly recommended that Australian businesses have in place formal legal protection of IP rights well before entering the Chinese market.
- The State Administration of Industry and Commerce is responsible for administering trademarks, which are registered through the China Trade Mark Office.
- China follows a first to file rule for obtaining trade mark rights. This means that the first person to file a trade mark application will generally have priority over a prior user of the mark in China. It's advisable to file trade mark applications in China as soon as possible.
- Three-dimensional shapes and colour combinations can be protected as trade marks in China. Other non-traditional marks such as sounds and smells are not yet registrable. Extending protection to these marks is currently being considered.
- Enforcement of a trade mark without registration is possible, although the process tends to be more expensive and less predictable.
- Since 2004, Customs Recordation of IP Rights has offered cross-border measures to protect IP rights.
- Trade mark registrations may be removed from the register if they are not used for three or more consecutive years after registration.
- The State Intellectual Property Office of China is responsible for administering patents, which are registered through the Chinese Patent Office.
- Two forms of patent protection are available in China: invention patents (equivalent to Australian standard patents, with a term of 20 years) and utility models (for lower level inventions, with a term of 10 years). Inventors may apply for both patents for the same invention.
- The patent examination process in China tends to be longer than in Australia.
- Certain types of subject matter are not patentable in China.
- In China, designs are registered through the Chinese Patent Office. Protection is available for a 10 year period. Known as design patents, they do not undergo substantive examination and can be obtained relatively quickly.
- Plant varieties are protected in China for a period of 15 or 20 years, depending upon the type of the plant.
- Since 1 October 2009, China has placed restrictions on the cross-border transfer of certain technologies.
Source: IP Australia
Logistics performance index
China scores 3.66 on the World Bank Logistics Performance Index. The index ranges from 1 to 5, with a higher score representing better performance.
The score reflects perceptions of a country's logistics based on efficiency of customs clearance process, quality of trade- and transport-related infrastructure, ease of arranging competitively priced shipments, quality of logistics services, ability to track and trace consignments, and frequency with which shipments reach the consignee within the scheduled time.
Packaging & labelling requirements
All imported foodstuffs and beverages are subject to inspections by the China Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (CIQ). This can be a complicated and challenging process, be prepared and do not underestimate the cost, documentation and time required. Accessing up-to-date information on quarantine requirements such as labelling and packaging requirements, Chinese national food standards and allowable ingredient listings can be difficult.
All imported pre-packaged food must be labelled in Chinese (simplified Chinese as used in mainland China). In addition to Chinese characters, English and other foreign languages may also be used; this is useful in differentiating an imported product from local produce. The General Standard for the Labelling of Pre-packaged Food (GB7718-2011) is available from the US Department of Agriculture website (PDF). The following is the example of minimum information to be listed:
- Standard name of foodstuffs
- List of ingredients
- Quantitative labelling of ingredients (percentage of ingredient)
- Net weight and configuration
- Name, address and contact info of manufacturer and local agent or distributor
- Production date, use by date in YY/MM/DD format and guidance for storing
- Generic name of the food additives as used in the national standard
- Quality grade
- Food production license number
- Code of the product standard
- Special contents if there are any (e.g. irradiated food, genetically modified, nutrition list for baby food or diet food).
For details about wine export standards from Australia to China, please visit the Australian Grape and Wine Authority regarding compliance guidance.
China Quarantine and Inspection (CIQ) requirements often change and can be complex to interpret. Australian exporters are encouraged to re-confirm labelling requirements and other product certification with their importers in China or relevant departments, prior to dispatch of goods. Tighter and stricter regulations are being seen across F&B categories in response to food safety concerns.
China New Food Safety Law
China's first Food Safety Law was adopted in 2009. The New Food Safety Law was amended and came into effect on 1 October 2015. The new version is much stricter on monitoring and supervision, safety standards, recall of substandard products and includes severe punishment for offenders. The English version translation of China Food Safety Law 2015 is available from the US Department of Agriculture website (PDF). The Food Safety Law also covers all imported food products, which are subject to the national food safety standards of China.
All foreign food distributors and producers that import food products into China are required to register with the state entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities. Importers must record the foods imported and distributed in China and must keep these records for at least two years.
For those ingredients or components not registered in China, it is required that the ingredients are registered as new-to-China components. Any food or food ingredient or component that has had an import history prior to the new Food Safety Law should be allowed entry even if there is no Chinese standard.
Foreign food manufacturers are required to register with the General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (AQSIQ).
Manufacturers of dairy products, particularly infant formula, meat and seafood are subject to even stricter accreditation for the registration process. On the spot accreditation by Chinese government officials may be also required. Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA) publishes latest lists of approved foreign manufacturers or facilities of dairy products, infant formula, meat and seafood.
Decree 55 has been issued by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), as part of the Food Safety Law and came into force in 2012. Decree 55 requires Australian exporters and agents, as well as Chinese importers, to complete an online registration form. Covering a wide range of products under the jurisdiction of the AQSIQ Food Safety Bureau and includes prescribed food commodities such as:
- meat and meat products
- aquatic products
- egg and egg products
- dairy products
- bee products
- other non-prescribed foods such as biscuits and beverages.
Whilst detailed manuals contain detailed step-by-step instructions on how to complete the registration process, they are currently only available in Chinese. Exporters are encouraged to work closely with their importers to provide the required information.
China Compulsory Certification (CCC)
China Compulsory Certification (CCC) is a mandatory certification system for a wide variety of products exported to or sold in China. As the statutory safety certification, the CCC mark informs Chinese consumers that a product has met the minimum safety requirements.
Manufacturers are required to obtain the CCC mark before exporting to or selling products covered in the CCC catalogue in China. If your product does not have the CCC mark, it may be held at the border by customs and be subject to penalties.
The Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) is responsible for administrating the CCC mark and the China Quality Certification Centre (CQC) handles the CCC mark application process. There are 20 main categories of products with 135 kinds of products listed. These include such items as toys, agricultural machinery, small power motors, automobiles and related components, and decoration and fitting products. The CCC catalogue is regularly updated so check it often to find out if your product requires a CCC mark.
Source: Asialink Business
On a scale of -2.5 (weakest) to 2.5 (strongest), the Political Stability Index value for China is -0.5 (2016).
The index of Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism measures perceptions of the likelihood that the government of China will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including politically-motivated violence and terrorism.
Proximity to Australia
The air travel (bird fly) shortest distance between Australia and China is 7,448 km.
By comparison, the air travel (bird fly) shortest distance between Australia and Indonesia is 3,449 km.
China ranks 83rd (out of 168 countries) on the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.
Dairy to China
Learn about the Dairy industry in China
Click the topics below to find out more.
Generally higher tariffs than other agreements, but improving
Tariffs vary across the sector, but there are reductions across the board
Free by 2024 for most
Free for infant formula by 2019
Competitive status of ChAFTA (vs other FTAs)
See competitive landscape for comparison
Ease of distribution/logistics
- Supermarkets: The industry's largest market. Supermarkets are the largest suppliers of dairy products and offer the widest product range. They also offer fresh products and regular supply.
- Wholesalers: Most producers sell their products in local regions. Large companies often set up wholesalers in the target province and are responsible for recruiting and managing distribution agents in medium- and small-sized cities.
- Food retailers: About 17.8% of the industry's revenue comes from food retailers and convenience stores. This percentage is increasing with a growing number of these types of food retailers.
- Other markets: Another 11.1% of milk and dairy products are sold via other channels, including exports. These include producers selling directly to consumers through an established network of delivery service centers in urban areas, which has been declining with the development of supermarkets in recent years. Baby stores are a new sales channel that will become more important in future.
Ease of market entry
Key success factors in the Dairy Product Production industry are:
- Access to high quality inputs: access to fresh milk supply sources is important and could affect the output and quality of the final products. Manufacturers need to find reliable fresh milk supply sources to ensure product output and quality.
- Establishment of brand names: liquid dairy and dairy products manufacturers must develop and promote their brands in order to be successful.
- Effective product promotion: manufacturers are able to increase their market presence through media advertisements and sales promotions.
- Development of new products: the development of new products can attract consumer attention and enlarge market share. This can drive sales growth and make a company more successful.
- Control of distribution arrangements: the distribution network is very important for manufacturers in this industry to enlarge sales regions and increase sales revenue.
Trends to note
- Consumption levels have been growing in line with per capita income increases and changes in consumer behavior.
- Increased demand for higher quality products
- Major foreign players have localised their production and gained advantages of lower costs over foreign players that only export to China. As such, the production localization process has in recent years increased the entry barriers for foreign competitors exporting to China.
There are no specific grants/subsidies available to the dairy industry, however, Australian exporters who meet the criteria can apply for the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG). The EMDG scheme is a key Australian Government financial assistance program for aspiring and current exporters. Administered by Austrade, the scheme supports a wide range of industry sectors and products, including inbound tourism and the export of intellectual property and know-how outside Australia.
The EMDG scheme:
- encourages small and medium sized Australian businesses to develop export markets
- reimburses up to 50% of eligible export promotion expenses above $5,000 provided that the total expenses are at least $15,000
- provides up to eight (8) grants to each eligible applicant.
For further information on how to apply, visit http://www.austrade.gov.au/Australian/Export/Export-Grants/EMDG-how-to-apply
Local supplier competition
After nearly a decade of strong and steady growth, Chinese dairy producers were severely affected by the melamine scandal of September 2008, when milk and infant formula, as well as other food materials and components, were found to be tainted with melamine. This incident has had a profound effect on China's dairy industries, causing weaker domestic demand and plummeting exports.
There were over 700 enterprises operating in this industry in 2017, most of which are small or medium in size. The four largest enterprises in the industry, Mengniu, Yili, Bright and Sanyuan, jointly account for about 43.6% of industry revenue in 2016, showing a moderate industry concentration level.
Manufacturers of dairy products, particularly infant formula, are subject to very strict accreditation and must register before having their products allowed into China. On the spot accreditation by Chinese government officials may be also required. Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA) publishes latest lists of approved foreign manufacturers or facilities of dairy products and infant formula.
After the melamine incident in late 2008, the government implemented additional policies for the dairy industry. The government also strengthened security tests and promulgated a series of industry policies and quality standards.
- The “Identification of Reconstituted Milk in Pasteurized and UHT Milk Standard” prohibits the use of reconstituted milk for production of pasteurized and UHT milk. Requires all producers using reconstituted milk to submit an application and go through quality control processes with the relevant inspection authority. If products pass all quality control requirements, the government requires producers to label the percent of reconstituted milk on the package.
- The “Pre-Packaged Food Label General Rule” requires food producers to use standardized labels on packaging in accordance with standard requirements
- The “Prepackaged Special Diet Food Label” regulates that imported infant formula should be packaged with Chinese labels as required.
Strength of the opportunity
Australian milk production is well above the volume required for domestic consumption, meaning a large amount of produce is exported.
Australia exports nearly half of the milk that it produces. This makes it the third largest exporter behind the EU and New Zealand; Australia accounts for 10% of the global export market.
In 2016/17 the Australian dairy industry’s farm gate value totalled almost $3.7 billion, 37% of all product exported.
China, with its large number of consumers and changing consumption habits is a natural market for Australian dairy. China values the quality of Australian dairy and trusts our production standards and quality control.
However, there are real challenges in exporting dairy to China. The industry is heavily regulated and market entry is complicated. There are also the intricacies of logistics to consider when transporting large volumes of perishable product.
Learn about China's FTAs with other countries and see how Australia’s agreement compares
|Related bilateral tariffs by country|
|Product||Tariff classification||Current tariff 2018|
|Costa Rica||Butter||0405||4.7% ( Category D)|
|Switzerland (Annex 1)||Butter||0405||0.0%|
|Australia||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||0.0%|
|Chile||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||0.0%|
|Costa Rica||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||5.6% (Category D)|
|Iceland||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||0.0%|
|Korea||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||10.4%|
|New Zealand||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||0.0%|
|Pakistan||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||6.0%|
|Peru||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||0.0%|
|Singapore||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||N/A|
|Switzerland (Annex 1)||Cheese||Fresh Cheese 0406.10||7.4%|
|Australia||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||0.0%|
|Chile||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||0.0%|
|Costa Rica||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||5.6% ( Category D)|
|Iceland||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||0.0%|
|Korea||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||10.4%|
|New Zealand||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||0.0%|
|Pakistan||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||6.0%|
|Peru||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||4.0%|
|Singapore||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||N/A|
|Switzerland (Annex 1)||Cheese||Grated/powdered cheese 0406.20||7.4%|
|Australia||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||0.0%|
|Chile||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||0.0%|
|Costa Rica||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||8.4% ( Category D)|
|Iceland||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||0.0%|
|Korea||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||10.4%|
|New Zealand||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||1.2%|
|Pakistan||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||6.0%|
|Peru||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||6.4%|
|Singapore||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||N/A|
|Switzerland (Annex 1)||Cheese||Processed Cheese 0406.30||8.6%|
|Australia||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||3.0%|
|Chile||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||0.0%|
|Costa Rica||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||7% ( Category D)|
|Iceland||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||0.0%|
|Korea||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||13.0%|
|New Zealand||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||0.0%|
|Pakistan||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||12.0%|
|Peru||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||0.0%|
|Singapore||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||N/A|
|Switzerland (Annex 1)||Cheese||Blue Vein Cheese 0406.40||15% ( Category D, exempt)|
|Australia||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||0.0%|
|Chile||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||0.0%|
|Costa Rica||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||7.0%|
|Iceland||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||0.0%|
|Korea||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||15% ( Category E)|
|New Zealand||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||0.0%|
|Pakistan||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||12.0%|
|Peru||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||0.0%|
|Singapore||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||N/A|
|Switzerland (Annex 1)||Milk, Cream||milk,cream 040110||7.5%|
|Costa Rica||Yoghurt||yoghurt 0403.10||4.7% ( Category D )|
|Korea||Yoghurt||yoghurt 0403.10||10% ( Category E)|
|New Zealand||Yoghurt||yoghurt 0403.10||0.0%|
|Switzerland (Annex 1)||Yoghurt||yoghurt 0403.10||5.8%|
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