What is the Unified Social Credit Code?

When importing from China, you’ll come across some terms that are crucial to know. One of them is the Unified Social Credit Code (USCC). This code is issued to all registered companies and various organizations throughout Mainland China. What exactly is this number, and why is it so important? How to check the Unified Social Credit Identifier, and where to find it?

Unified Social Credit Code

Unified Social Credit Code is an 18-digit number (sometimes including letters), unique for every Chinese company. It’s mandatory for all enterprises and other organization types in Mainland China. The code states that the business has been registered and verified with the Chinese government to operate legally. Interestingly, the number is issued not only to, e.g., manufacturers but also entities like schools, hospitals, and even charities.

In Chinese, this code is called 统一社会信用代码 (tǒngyī shèhuì xìnyòng dàimǎ). However, it has several English translations, including:

  • Unified Social Credit Identifier (USCN)
  • Unified Social Credit Code (USCC)
  • Unified Social Credit Indicator (USCI).

The Chinese government created the Unified Social Credit Code by merging the business registration number, organization code, and tax registration certificate number. The majority of the codes is issued by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC). However, depending on the type of organization being registered, the registering authority may differ.

Remember! Organizations registered in Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan don’t have such a code since each is a separate jurisdiction.

What do all these numbers mean?

Every Unified Social Credit Identifier is created following a certain pattern. It’s not just a meaningless string of numbers and letters. Each part of it carries some information about the company it belongs to. By searching it, you can learn about the enterprise’s business scope, taxation, administrative punishment, and others. Therefore, it’s useful for those who wish to do business with a Chinese company and Chinese authorities responsible for the market’s supervision.

From this code, you can check:

  • The registering authority (e.g. the number “9” stands for AIC)
  • The registered entity type (e.g. private enterprise, a state-owned enterprise, joint ventures, etc.)
  • The registering region code
  • The organization code
  • The check digit (allows confirming the code’s validation).

In the table, you can see which exact digits carry what kind of information.

Unified Social Credit Code - Digits

Where to find the Unified Social Credit Identifier?

Chinese business license

There are a few possible ways to check the Unified Social Credit Code. Firstly, ask your supplier about it. They should provide it to you without question. Moreover, when importing from China, it’s crucial to ask for a scan of the manufacturer’s business license. This document is necessary to operate legally in China. The scan needs to be clear and in color. Otherwise, the license is more likely to be fake.

After receiving the document, you’ll be able to check the Unified Social Credit Identifier. It’s placed next to the Chinese characters: “统一社会信用代码” in the middle of the business license or the top left corner. In the picture below, you can see an example of such a document and the code on it.

Chinese business license

Other documents with the Unified Social Credit Code

There are also other documents that may contain this number. You can look for it, e.g., on the Foreign Trade Registration Certificate, a Chinese receipt, or the China ISO9001 Certificate if your supplier has one.

Verified Suppliers on Alibaba

Some companies have their number displayed on Alibaba—a Chinese B2B e-commerce platform. It concerns especially these manufacturers that are marked as “Verified Suppliers.” This mark means that a third-party inspection body has verified that they have a valid business license. However, keep in mind that this marking doesn’t guarantee an exporter’s 100% credibility. To ensure that a supplier is trustworthy, always verify them beforehand yourself. Additional verification will provide you with all the data necessary to assess if you should do business with the company. For example, you’ll learn about its registered name and address, business number, export, and import license, owned certificates, financial situation, and many more.

Furthermore, we advise you to organize an inspection in a Chinese factory. It can be carried out during different stages of the production chain. You can start with a factory audit. Its purpose is to check the factory’s conditions and eliminate any problems before production begins. It will help you decide if it’s worth cooperating with a chosen company.

Moreover, an inspection on every step will give you a full insight into your goods’ manufacturing process. This measure will assure you that your products are manufactured according to your demands, have no defects, and will be shipped to you in a proper quantity and way.

We can organize an inspection in a Chinese factory for you on every step!

Contract with a Chinese supplier

Please note that the code must be included in a contract with a Chinese supplier. Thus, if you sign an agreement with a supplier, ensure that they’ve put their Unified Social Credit Identifier in there (as it’s their responsibility). What’s more, the exporter company’s Chinese name has to appear in the document. To sum it up, the contract must be drawn up in Chinese and English and entail the manufacturer’s Unified Social Credit Identifier and Chinese name. It also has to be signed correctly. Only then will it be legally binding.

It’s always worth signing a contract with your business partner to protect yourself from possible losses. For example, if it turns out that your products’ quality doesn’t comply with your original demands, you might not be able to get your money back. However, with a valid contract, you can always claim your rights. 

Remember, drawing up a trade agreement costs are lower than the losses associated with a defective order. A contract with a Chinese supplier will protect your transaction and your company from possible enormous financial losses.

What is China’s Social Credit System?

As we mentioned before, the Unified Social Credit Code is useful for Chinese authorities that handle the market’s supervision. China’s Corporate Social Credit System ensures that Chinese companies comply with all the standards and improve their general behavior by assessing their performance and demeanor. If a business has unsatisfactory corporate compliance with Chinese rules, it may face various consequences. Simultaneously, companies with so-called “good behavior” will be rewarded.

Entrepreneurs that have low corporate social credit scores are at risk of penalties, such as high fees, targeted audits, exclusion from preferential policies, and many more. In extreme cases, they can even be blacklisted, which leads to more restrictions. Companies that found themselves on a blacklist could have, e.g., violated work safety regulations. On the contrary, redlisted businesses demonstrate consistent compliance with various regulations.

Due to the strict requirements, Chinese companies must quickly identify their own flaws and implement adjustments that ensure their compliance with the system.

Unified Social Credit Code – Summary

  • The Unified Social Credit Identifier is obligatory for all businesses and organizations throughout Mainland China. Entities from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan don’t have such a number.
  • The Unified Social Credit Code is necessary for operating legally in China.
  • The code is created following a specific pattern, and its digits carry information about a company it belongs to.
  • You can find the USCC on the manufacturer’s business license. It’s also often displayed on the Foreign Trade Registration Certificate, a Chinese receipt, or the China ISO9001 Certificate.
  • Remember to always verify your partner before placing an order! In this way, you’ll ensure that they’re trustworthy.