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[Suit & Tie]: Shanghai's Big Chambers of Commerce

Window-shopping the chambers of commerce in Shanghai for the best deal
Last updated: 2019-01-14

You don't have to be German to join the German Chamber of Commerce. You don't have to be British to join the British Chamber and the European Union welcomes all foreign-invested companies to their Chamber. So if and when you are looking to join a Chamber, a vital resource for any foreign company doing business in China, it pays to shop around.

Do you want to party with the Aussies or get political with the Americans? Get a discount on professional services like payroll and accounting from the German Chamber? It's all out there, depending on what your business needs.

What does a Chamber do exactly?

Chambers are private business associations with a close relationship to their home governments. Depending on what country or bloc of countries they are affiliated with, they will have varying mandates. Some promote export from China, getting your China-made product into their countries; others promote business networking, helping you find customers, suppliers or potential business partners. Still others advocate change within China at the policy level. All are a great way to meet others willing to share what they've learned from doing business here.

How do I join?
If you work for a Chinese company, or a run a company set up in China, you can join as an individual based on your foreign passport.

The Political Heavyweights:

American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai


Do I have to be American? No

Price: If you're a business and registered outside of China (mandatory), it's a 9,500rmb annual fee for small companies and 12,000rmb for larger ones. Foreign passport holders can join as individuals for 4,500rmb +1k USD for reciprocal membership at the AmChams of Beijing, South China, Hong Kong and Taipei.

A Number: 1,500 members

AmCham Shanghai's advocacy programs provide information on US-China policies that may impact its members' operations in China and work on their behalf to act as a bridge between members and key government regulators and officials in China and the US. They get political.

It has 20 industry committees for a wide variety of sectors (automotive, entrepreneurship, financial services, food & beverage and sports & entertainment), which give advice via workshops, education sessions, networking forums and panel discussions. Then there are pan-Chamber events, which are more general and range from networking shindigs to 101 Life in China-type stuff.

As an added benefit, AmCham Shanghai's US Corporate Visa Program can help speed the US visa process for member companies' direct employees and their families, and discounted prices are offered for services like US tax filing and medical health insurance.

European Union Chamber of Commerce in China – Shanghai Chapter


Do I have to be European? It helps but no

Price: 5,800rmb for small business (less than 250 employees worldwide) and more for bigger businesses. Also 5,800rmb for individuals.

A Number: 500 events a year, China-wide

The EU Chamber has a strong focus on roundtables, panel discussions and development seminars with industry people. It also concentrates on government-level advocacy, regularly meeting with government leaders and submitting comments on legislation. In 2017 its members met with Premier Li Keqiang, Vice Premier Ma Kai and President of the European Parliament, Martin Shulz.

Unlike the other Chambers listed here, individual membership is open only to EU passport holders, however corporations, if they are a foreign invested company, may also join.

The Networkers:

Australian Chamber of Commerce Shanghai


Do I have to be Australian? Nope

Price: 2,120rmb for individuals and 5,353rmb for small businesses (size unspecified), or 9,784rmb for bigger business

A Number: Over five million rmb raised for charity

AustCham Shanghai is the largest Australian Chamber of Commerce in Greater China, representing more than 400 businesses. The Chamber holds more than 150 events annually, including business forums, intimate roundtables and networking parties. Its latest job fair was attended by more than 60 companies and universities and drew over 500 graduates.

AustCham Shanghai touts its social credentials, hosting monthly "Aussie Drinks" for members and non-members alike, as well as other Australian-themed get togethers through the year. They like to socialize. So friendly.

British Chamber of Commerce Shanghai


Do I have to be British? Do not

Price: Small biz (less than 50 staff worldwide), 4,717rmb. Individuals are 2,332rmb if under 30 or 2,915rmb if above

A Number: One year — how long Chinese nationals must live in the UK before being eligible to join (nine months if they were working)

Like AustCham, the British Chamber hosts a wide range of networking events throughout the year. Members can bring guests along, and some are even free. The Chamber also has the most extensive selection of lifestyle discounts of the five mentioned here, including accommodation, dining, education and travel deals.

There are 14 focus groups which meet to share industry expertise and developments, and a variety of events to boost market-specific knowledge. Recently the Chamber hosted discussions regarding M&A negotiations, brand building and changes to China's income tax laws. It also conducted a tour of the Jaguar Land Rover factory in Changshu.

The Hand Holder:

German Chamber of Commerce in China – Shanghai Branch


Do I have to be German? Nein

Price: Four levels, from 4,000rmb for extra-small companies (up to 10 staff in China) to 11,500rmb for the biggest. Foreign passport holders under the age of 30 (1,300rmb) or over 30 (1,800rmb) can also join.

A Number: 1,600 member companies

The German Chamber of Commerce's Shanghai Branch provides a range of services to those seeking to expand their presence in China. Specialities include market entry and expansion, payroll & accounting, marketing & communications, and legal & tax services, and many are offered at a discount to members.

They also run an annual Sino-German job fair, which in 2018 was attended by more than 30 companies and was free for students.

The Shanghai Branch ran over 200 events in 2018 ranging from China taxation workshops to innovation and development seminars.