Management Of Foreign Invested Enterprises In China
Board of Directors
Most Foreign Invested Enterprises (FIEs) are governed by a board of directors and senior management. An exception exists for Cooperative Joint Ventures that the parties have chosen not to incorporate (these are governed by a management committee).
Powers: The Chairman, as the legal representative of the enterprise, has the power to legally bind the enterprise and bears significant responsibility for its acts and
omissions. Most of the powers and functions of the board are set forth in the Articles of Association and in the Joint Venture Contract.
Number of Directors: The board of directors of both Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises (WFOEs) and Joint Ventures are required to appoint between 3 and 13 directors. FIEs with few shareholders may be able to convince the examination and approval authority to dispense with the board of directors and use an executive director.
Membership: In an Equity Joint Venture (EJV), board membership must be proportionate to capital contributions. The board must have a Chairman, but need not have a Vice Chairman. If both are used, however, then if the foreign investor selects the Chairman, the Chinese party must select the Vice Chairman, and vice versa.
Meetings: Joint venture board meetings must be held once a year, and a quorum is 2/3 of the directors. For Equity Joint Ventures, unanimous consent of the board is required for amendment of the Articles of Association, increase or reduction of the Registered Capital, merger or division, and termination and dissolution. The law is significantly more flexible for Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises – board meetings and quorum requirements are governed by the WFOE’s Articles of Association.
Director & Officer Liability: Director and officer liability law and enforcement is not as well-developed as in many Western nations. Correspondingly, the market for directors and officers liability insurance is not particularly well-developed either. The Chairman’s role as the enterprise’s legal representative encumbers him with both civil and criminal liability for the acts and/or omissions of the enterprise. Directors can be held liable for board resolutions that are illegal or that contravene the Articles of Association and cause losses to the company. Directors, supervisors and senior management personnel can be held liable if they cause losses to the enterprise by violating laws and/or the Articles of Association.
Equity Joint Ventures must appoint a General Manager, one or more Deputy General Managers, and a Finance Manager. Although not required for other FIEs, this is common practice for these enterprises as well. If a Chinese investor nominates the General Manager of an EJV, a foreign investor may nominate the Deputy General Manager, and vice versa.
General Manager: The General Manager is charged with day-to-day operation and may be a foreign national if the enterprise so chooses. The responsibilities of the General Manager should be listed in the Articles of Association even if Chinese law does not require the appointment of a General Manager (as in the case of WFOEs). The General Manager is charged by law with responsibility for formulating a management system for the enterprise; production, operations and management, employment and termination of staff (except those that must be employed and dismissed by the board of directors) and implementing board resolutions and investment and business plans.
Deputy General Managers: A Foreign Invested Enterprise may appoint one or more Deputy General Managers (EJVs are required to appoint at least one).
Finance Manager: An Equity Joint Venture is required to appoint one or more accountants to assist the General Manager with finances. This is also common practice for other FIEs.
LLCs are required to have supervisory boards, although this is often ignored in practice by WFOEs and Joint Ventures.