How to Change a Company’s Articles of Association in China

How to Change a Company’s Articles of Association in China

The Articles of Association stand as a foundational document for the efficient and ethical operation of any company in China. This document, often viewed as a corporation's constitution, lays out the framework and rules a company operates under. It governs various aspects of corporate management and stakeholder relationships.


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The Articles of Association serve multiple key purposes. Primarily, they outline the company's purpose and the scope of its activities, effectively drawing the boundary within which it operates. This clarity is crucial for stakeholders to understand the company's objectives and limitations.

Furthermore, these articles detail the rights and responsibilities of shareholders and directors, ensuring a transparent and fair governance structure. Such transparency is vital in building trust among investors, a cornerstone for any business's growth and stability.

Understanding Articles of Association

The Articles of Association (AoA) in China are the bedrock of a company's framework, guiding its governance and operations. These documents often likened to a constitution, set the stage for how business functions and interacts with its shareholders, directors, and the broader market. Their role encompasses the company's fundamental aspects while legally binding to all parties involved.

Legal framework

Rooted deeply in the Company Law of China, these documents set the legal foundation for a business's structure and governance. For entities like Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises (WFOEs), the AoA is especially significant, outlining the business scope, investment strategies, and management under the nuanced lens of Chinese regulations concerning foreign investments.

At their core, the AoA must align with the mandatory legal stipulations of the Chinese Company Law. This law dictates the essential elements that need to be included in the AoA for a company to gain legal recognition.

 While the AOA's specifics may vary according to jurisdiction, there are universally common components found in most:

  • Company name and legal form: The AoA starts with the company's legal name and its business form, which is essential for legal recognition. This includes compliance with jurisdictional naming conventions and the inclusion of legal address details.
  • Purpose and business scope: The AoA clearly states the company's business activities. It outlines the scope of business activities the company intends to undertake. This section is crucial as it defines the operational boundaries of the business.
  • Capital structure: This section details how the company organizes its capital, typically through share capital for companies with share capital. It outlines different classes of shares and their rights, like preferred shares, and their implications for dividends and liquidation preferences.
  • Corporate governance: This includes the roles and responsibilities of directors and shareholders, detailing their rights and obligations. It sets the rules for decision-making, meeting frequencies, participation, and voting procedures.
  • Administration of corporate records: It mandates the maintenance and submission of records like minutes of meetings and financial accounts, ensuring regulatory compliance and transparency.
  • Provisions for shareholders: These include details like voting rights, dividend entitlements, preemptive rights, and share transfer processes. These provisions protect shareholder interests and define their influence over company decisions.
  • Directors' powers and duties: The AoA specifies the authority of the directors, their responsibilities, and the limitations of their powers. It ensures that directors act in the company's best interests and adhere to a standard of care and diligence.
  • Meeting protocols: It outlines the procedures for shareholder meetings, including AGMs and EGMs, detailing the quorum requirements, notice periods, and voting procedures.
  • Amendments and decision-making process: The AoA provides a mechanism for amendments to the document, often requiring a special resolution by shareholders.
  • Mandatory and freely agreed items: As per China's Company Law, certain items must be incorporated into the AoA, such as the company's domicile, legal representative, and finance principles. In addition, there is room for discretion on matters like shareholders' voting principles and dividend distribution policies.

Why does a company change its Article of Association?

Recognizing and acting upon the need for updates in the Articles of Association is vital to maintaining a company's legal and operational integrity. By staying attuned to legal developments, internal changes, and shareholder needs, companies can ensure that their AoA remains relevant, effective, and compliant with the evolving business and regulatory environment.

The need to update a company's Articles of Association (AoA) can arise from various catalysts. These changes are not just a matter of procedural compliance but a strategic response to evolving business environments, legal landscapes, and shareholder needs.

Legislative and regulatory changes

One of the primary reasons for amending the AoA is the introduction of new laws or amendments to existing legislation. When legal frameworks shift, companies must ensure their AoA aligns with these changes to maintain compliance. Similarly, directives from regulatory bodies or court orders can require modifications to the AoA. For instance, a directive from the Charity Commission or a similar authority may require specific changes.

Internal developments

As a company grows and evolves, its original AoA may no longer be adequate or appropriate. Changes in company structure, such as mergers, acquisitions, or diversification, can prompt revisiting and revising the AoA. This ensures the document accurately reflects the current organizational structure and operational strategy.

Shareholder rights and interests

Modifying the AoA to clarify or enhance shareholder rights is often a critical impetus for change. This could include adjustments in pre-emption rights, drag-along and tag-along rights, and policies regarding the transmission of shares under specific circumstances, such as the death of a shareholder. Other aspects like voting rights, dividend policies, decision-making rules, share transfer restrictions, and share buyback clauses may also be revised to align with shareholders' evolving needs and expectations.

Clarifying governance and decision-making processes

Over time, it may become evident that certain aspects of the AoA need more clarity or are no longer suitable. Updating the AoA can provide an opportunity to refine the governance structure and decision-making procedures, ensuring they remain effective and transparent.

Aligning with supplementary agreements

When a company has a shareholders' agreement alongside the AoA, changes to one document should be mirrored to avoid conflicts. Therefore, amending the AoA often requires corresponding updates to any existing shareholders' agreement.

How to amend the Articles of Association

Amending the Articles of Association is a significant undertaking that requires careful planning, legal expertise, and active stakeholder engagement. It's a process that ensures legal compliance and reinforces the foundation upon which the company operates.

The company must follow a formal process when the need for amendments is recognized. This usually involves convening a general meeting where the directors present a statement to shareholders explaining the necessity for changes in the AoA. Subsequently, the shareholders must pass a special resolution to approve these amendments. This process ensures that all changes are made transparently and with the consensus of the company's stakeholders.

Preparation for amendment

Thorough review of current articles

The first step in preparing for an amendment of the Articles of Association (AoA) in China is to conduct a meticulous review of the existing document. This process is not just about identifying sections that are out-of-date or non-compliant with new laws; it's about understanding how each clause of the AoA aligns with the company's current operations and future ambitions. Areas often requiring attention include governance structures, shareholder rights, and procedural guidelines. This review should be comprehensive, considering the implications of each article on the company's functionality and strategic objectives.

Legal consultation for compliance and best practices

Once potential areas for amendment are identified, the next critical step is consulting with legal advisors. This is not merely a formality; ensuring that the proposed changes comply with the latest legal requirements and industry best practices is vital. Legal experts can provide insights into how new regulations or legal trends might impact the company. They can also offer advice on structuring the AoA to provide flexibility for future changes. This consultation helps craft amendments that comply with the law and fortify the company's governance and operational frameworks.

Engaging with stakeholders

Amending the AoA is not a decision to be taken in isolation by the company's leadership. It requires engagement with various stakeholders, including directors, shareholders, and potentially even employees. This engagement can take many forms, from formal meetings to informal consultations. The objective is to gather diverse perspectives and ensure that the amendments consider the interests and concerns of all parties involved. This process is crucial for shareholders, particularly, as they must ultimately approve any changes. Their input can provide valuable insights into how the AoA can be shaped to reflect the shareholders' vision for the company.

Drafting amendments

The process of drafting amendments involves several key steps:

  • Assessment and rewording: Initially, this may include rewording existing provisions within the current AoA to enhance clarity and relevance. The language used must be precise to avoid ambiguity and ensure legal soundness.
  • Adding or removing clauses: Depending on the nature of the changes, adding new clauses or removing outdated ones may be necessary. This step ensures that the AoA remains aligned with the company's current operational and strategic goals.
  • Creating bespoke articles: In some cases, entirely new articles may need to be crafted, particularly when dealing with unique aspects of the business or significant shifts in company strategy or structure.

Crafting AoA for Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises (WFOEs)

For WFOEs in China, drafting the AoA involves specific considerations:

  • Registration requirements: The initiation of a WFOE begins with preparing and submitting various documents, including the AoA, to the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR).
  • Understanding Chinese corporate culture and legal system: The AoA must align with both the Chinese way of doing business and the complexities of its legal system.
  • Business scope clarity: Defining the business scope is important since the company is permitted to operate only within these stated parameters.
  • Capital contribution structure: The AoA should clearly detail the structure of capital contributions to provide clarity among shareholders.
  • Governance details: It is vital to establish clear rules regarding the operation and powers of company bodies, such as the board of directors.

Professional legal advice

Given the intricacies of the Chinese legal system and the critical role of the AoA in a company's governance, seeking professional legal advice is often necessary. Legal experts can provide the requisite knowledge and expertise to ensure the drafted amendments comply with Chinese laws and regulations.

Did You Know
Since the official language for legal documents in China is Chinese, ensuring that the AoA is drafted accurately in this language is imperative.

Approval process

The role of a special resolution

This resolution represents a consensus among the shareholders on significant changes to the company's governance structure. Passing a special resolution requires a substantial majority — usually a 75 percent vote in favor of the shareholders. This high threshold ensures that any amendments to the Articles of Association have substantial support, reflecting the shareholders' collective will and safeguarding the company's interests.

Legal requirements for passing a resolution.

Written resolution method:

  • Preparation and distribution: The process begins with preparing the proposed special resolution, accompanied by a statement explaining the process for signifying the agreement and the deadline for responses.
  • Communication: This resolution and accompanying statement are then sent to every eligible voting member in hard copy or electronically. The distribution can be simultaneous to all members or circulated sequentially.
  • Advantages: Opting for a written resolution is often more efficient as it negates the need for a physical general meeting. This method is particularly advantageous when convening all members is impractical or unnecessary due to the nature of the changes proposed.

General meeting resolution method:

  • Initial board meeting: The process begins with a board meeting to discuss, prepare, and agree on the proposed resolution. Following this, a decision is made to call a general meeting.
  • Notice of general meeting: A notice is sent to all eligible members at least 14 days before the meeting. This notice must include details of the proposed resolution, an overview of the changes, and a copy of the new Articles of Association.
  • Meeting proceedings: The resolution is presented to the members at the general meeting. This setting allows discussion, clarification, and debate on the proposed changes before members vote.
  • Advantages: This method is more suitable in scenarios where numerous shareholders or the amendments are substantial enough to warrant detailed discussion and deliberation.


Rights and shared classes

The voting process can be nuanced, particularly in companies with different classes of shares. Each class of shares may carry distinct voting rights. For instance, ordinary shares typically carry one vote per share, whereas preferred shares might have different voting rights or, in some cases, no voting rights. Understanding the specific voting rights attached to each share class as outlined in the company's existing Articles of Association or shareholder agreements is crucial.


As mentioned earlier, Voting on amendments usually occurs either during a general meeting or via a written resolution. In the case of a general meeting, shareholders vote on the proposed amendments after a thorough discussion and clarification process. For written resolutions, shareholders signify their agreement by responding within a specified deadline.

Majority requirements

Regardless of the method, most jurisdictions require a special resolution for amending the Articles of Association, typically requiring a 75 percent majority vote. This high threshold ensures that amendments are made with substantial shareholder support, reflecting a strong consensus.

Proxy voting

Shareholders who are unable to attend the meeting in person often have the option to vote by proxy. This means they can appoint another person to vote on their behalf, allowing broader participation in decision-making.

Recording and validation

Accurate recording of votes is essential for the legitimacy of the process. This includes keeping track of how each shareholder voted, especially in cases of different share classes with varied voting rights. The validation of the voting process, often overseen by the company secretary or an appointed official, is crucial to ensure the legality and compliance of the amendment process.

Documentation and compliance

This documentation serves as a legal record and a reflection of the company's commitment to transparency and good governance. 

  • Recording resolutions: Every resolution passed, whether at a general meeting or through a written process, should be formally documented. This includes the specifics of the amendment, the voting process, and the final vote count. For companies with different class shares to record how each class voted, respecting the distinct rights attached to each share type.
  • Updating the articles: Following the approval of amendments, the actual Articles of Association must be updated to reflect these changes. This update should be precise, aligning word-for-word with the approved resolutions. The updated document then becomes the new governing charter of the company.

Notifying regulatory bodies

  • Notify relevant regulatory bodies about changes to their Articles of Association, depending on the jurisdiction to remain in good legal standing and transparent to regulatory authorities.
  • Companies usually need to submit the amended Articles and possibly other related documents to the relevant authorities. This might include the resolution document, meeting minutes where the resolution was passed and a copy of the updated Articles.
  • In many jurisdictions, the updated Articles of Association become a matter of public record. Ensuring these documents are correctly filed with the appropriate public registries is essential for compliance and maintaining the company's reputation.

Implementing changes

Once the Articles of Association amendments have been duly approved and documented, the next phase is their implementation.

  • The changes to the Articles typically become effective immediately upon the passing of the resolution unless stated otherwise. It's important to establish a clear, effective date, often the date of the resolution's approval. This ensures that everyone within the company is aware of when the new rules and regulations come into force.
  • In many jurisdictions, the amended Articles need to be filed with regulatory bodies and become part of the public record. The timeline for these legal formalities can vary, and it's crucial to comply with these requirements promptly to ensure that the company remains in good legal standing.
  • Concurrently, internal records such as corporate governance documents, policy manuals, and internal databases should be updated to reflect the new Articles. This update should be thorough, ensuring all references to the Articles within the company are current and accurate.

Communicating changes within the company

Effective communication of amendments to the Articles of Association involving prompt dissemination of information through internal memos, emails, or meetings, complemented by training sessions or workshops to ensure comprehensive understanding among employees and management. Additionally, establishing a feedback mechanism, such as Q&A sessions or suggestion boxes, is crucial for addressing concerns and fostering a collaborative environment in adapting to these changes.

Review and ongoing compliance

Maintaining the relevance and legality of the Articles of Association is an ongoing responsibility. Regular reviews, vigilant monitoring of legal and regulatory changes, responsive amendments, internal audits, and continuous education are all critical components of this process. By prioritizing these activities, companies can ensure that their governance framework remains robust, adaptable, and compliant with evolving legal and operational landscapes. This upholds legal standards and reinforces trust and integrity in the company’s governance practices.

Limitations and Considerations

While the Articles of Association are a flexible and vital governance tool for a company, there are inherent limitations and special considerations to consider when contemplating alterations. The following constraints are not just legal formalities; they are essential to maintaining the integrity and legal standing of the company:

Legal and public policy compliance

Any changes made to the Articles must be within the bounds of the law. Amendments that are illegal or contravene public policy are not permissible. This ensures that the company operates within legal and ethical norms.

Court orders and legal obligations

Alterations must not conflict with existing court orders or legal obligations. Respecting these legal directives is paramount to upholding the company's legal and ethical responsibilities.

No fraudulent intentions

The intent behind any amendment must be transparent and free from fraud. Changes should be made in good faith and for the company's and its stakeholders' legitimate benefit.

Limitation on increasing member liability

Amendments should not retroactively increase the liability of members or shareholders. This protects members from unforeseen obligations and maintains a fair and predictable governance environment.

Articles of Association: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Articles of Association in a Chinese company?

The Articles of Association in China are the foundation of a company's governance structure, similar to a constitution. They outline the company's purpose, governance model, shareholder rights, and managerial responsibilities. These articles are legally binding and essential for the company's efficient and ethical operation.

Why might a company need to change its Articles of Association?

Changes to the Articles of Association are often driven by new legal requirements, internal corporate developments like mergers or acquisitions, shareholder needs shifts, or clarifying governance procedures. Regular updates ensure that the Articles remain relevant and compliant with both legal standards and the company's evolving strategic goals.

What is the process for amending the Articles of Association in China?

Amending the Articles typically involves a comprehensive review of the current document, consultation with legal advisors, stakeholder engagement, drafting the amendments, and passing them through a special resolution, which usually requires a 75% majority vote from shareholders. such amendment of AoA shall be filed in the regulatory bodies.

Are there any limitations to what can be changed in the Articles of Association?

Yes, amendments to the Articles of Association cannot violate the law or public policy, contradict court orders, be fraudulent, or unfairly increase the liability of members. All changes must be made within the legal framework and with the company's and its stakeholders' best interests in mind.

How does a company communicate and implement changes to the Articles?

Changes are communicated internally through memos, emails, or meetings and may be supplemented with training sessions or workshops for a comprehensive understanding. The company should also establish a feedback mechanism, such as Q&A sessions, to address any concerns arising from the changes. Internally, records and documents are updated to reflect the new Articles, and such amendments of AoA shall be filed in the regulatory bodies.


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