China puts limit on accountant numbers

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The Independent Online
THE Chinese government will limit the number of foreign accountancy firms setting up in the country to 15, and will not allow them to operate as wholly owned businesses, in an effort to control the development and quality of the profession and restrict the earnings being taken abroad.

The move, reported yesterday by the China Business Times, comes as accountants and other professionals, particularly solicitors, are rushing into China in the hope of capitalising on the move towards a market economy.

Seven firms have set up in Peking, Shanghai and Shenzhen and trained more than 300 Chinese accountants, the report says. Price Waterhouse, Coopers & Lybrand and Arthur Andersen are among those to have established significant practices there and in Hong Kong in recent years.

However, China's latest move is unlikely to trouble those already there as it is in line with established policy on foreign investment.

Howard Hughes, Price Waterhouse's worldwide managing partner and chairman of the China practice, said the Chinese government had always required firms to enter into joint ventures with domestic firms to ensure that its own nationals were trained in accountancy.

This was not a problem for PW, which had links with a group of Shanghai University professors called Da Hua, because it had been the firm's strategy to develop local talent wherever it operated.

'We expect to have a truly Chinese practice there as soon as possible,' he said.

The work of foreign firms has ranged from advising multinationals on entering the country to assisting groups in their conversion from state-owned corporations.