China - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing
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Methods of Payment

In the PRC, there are many ways to finance imports. The two most common methods are letters of credit and documentary collections. No matter what method is used, the Chinese importer needs to apply for the foreign exchange amount for the trade transaction from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE).  The International Trade Administration (ITA) Trade Finance Guide: A Quick Reference for U.S. Exporters thoroughly details methods of payment as well as export financing and credit insurance options.

Letters of Credit

  • Most Chinese commercial banks have the authority to issue letters of credit (L/C) for both imports and exports. Foreign banks with branch or representative offices in the PRC can also issue letters of credit.
  • As a member of the International Chamber of Commerce since 1995, the PRC is subject to the Uniform Customs and Practice (UCP) 600 code that governs letters of credit.

Documentary Collections

  • This method of payment is like a letter of credit, but less formal and more flexible.  As with letters of credit, the exporter submits a full set of trade documents for payment collection to the bank designated in the contract.  The bank then sends the documents to the home office, which examines them and, in some cases, passes them to the buyer for further examination.
  • Payment is made after the documents have met the approval of all parties.  This method of payment provides only limited coverage against default.  It can be considerably less expensive than a letter of credit but should be used with caution.
  • It is the responsibility of the exporter to determine the specific instructions to be used in the collection letter. 

To access China’s ICS section on financing, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statement website.

U.S. Banks and Local Correspondent Banks

Among the locally incorporated foreign banks in China, there are currently eight from the U.S. that operate about 80 branches and representative offices in China:

  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • BNY Mellon
  • Citibank
  • East West Bank
  • JPMorgan Chase Bank
  • Morgan Stanley Bank International
  • SPD Silicon Valley Bank
  • Wells Fargo

Export Credit Guarantees/Insurance

To reduce financial risk and increase competitiveness, U.S. exporters may choose to explore credit guarantees/insurance options. Available programs will depend upon the type of export. Options include but are not limited to: