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Professional Supervisory Unit or Partner—Which Is Right for You?


We’ve written before about the requirement in the new Foreign NGO Law that requires approval from a “Professional Supervisory Unit” or “Chinese Partner” in order to conduct activities in China.

Shawn Shieh, writing at NGOs in China provides a helpful explanation about the distinction between those two entities:

... the Law only provides overseas NGOs with two ways to operate in China. One is for the NGO to register a representative office with the provincial Public Security Bureau (PSB). The second, for NGOs that do not need or want to establish an office in China, is for them to "file documents" on their "temporary activities" with the provincial PSB. . . .

To register a representative office, an NGO needs to get the approval of a Professional Supervisory Unit (PSU) (or what the official English-language translation calls "organizations in charge of operations") in its main field or area, before it can register with the PSB. In other words, it comes under what the Chinese call a "dual management system" needing to get approval from both the PSU and the PSB.

To "file documents" for "temporary activities," an NGO only needs to find a Chinese Partner who can get the necessary approvals for those activities, and file the necessary paperwork with the PSB.  In theory, this means that the NGO only needs to inform the PSB about its activities, and does not need approval.

In other words, if you are looking to establish a presence in the country by registering a representative office, then you need the approval of a Professional Supervisory Unit (PSU) before applying to the PSB. If you are simply looking to do short-term projects, then you need a “Chinese Partner.”

But what’s the difference?

Again, Mr. Shieh helps us understand the difference:

The PSU is generally a government agency in the NGO's main field or area. For example, if the NGO mainly works in the commercial or trade area, then it's PSU will most likely be the Commerce Bureau. If the NGO mainly works on environmental issues, then the PSU will most likely be the Environmental Protection Bureau. The PSU also has supervisory authority over the NGO which is required to get approval from the PSU for its operations and send annual work reports to the PSU. . . .

In contrast to the PSU, the Chinese Partner can come from a much larger pool of organizations. Article 16 of the Overseas NGO Law states that the Chinese Partner can be a government agency, a people's organization (e.g. Women's Federation, Communist Youth League, etc.), public institution (e.g. universities and research institutes), and social organizations (e.g. NGOs). The Chinese Partner also has no supervisory authority over the NGO. The NGO enjoys more of an equal relationship with the Chinese Partner. The Chinese Partner, however, does play an important role in getting the necessary approvals for "temporary activities" and filing the necessary documents with the PSB.

The Ministry of Public Security has now set up a special portal for Foreign NGO Management. It can be found here.  This is where all online registrations must be made.

The good folks at China Law Translate have translated the manual for submitting online registration. It can be found here

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio