The 101 on Shutting Down Your China WFOE vs. Putting it Into “Hibernation”

Closing Down Your China WFOE

Thinking of pulling the plug on your WFOE? For many foreign companies, the initial excitement of doing business in China has given way to the complexities of navigating complex and ever-growing regulations and a faltering economy. If you’ve decided it’s time to close your WFOE, don’t make the costly mistake of simply abandoning it. Chinese law mandates a formal de-registration process, and failing to comply can lead to serious consequences, both for your company and for your people. This blog post will equip you with the knowledge on what it takes to navigate a smooth and compliant closure.

The Dangers of Abandonment

Walking away from your WFOE seems easy, but it’s a risky move. Chinese authorities will revoke the license of inactive WFOEs, creating a public record of non-compliance. This can prevent you from opening new ventures in China and potentially blacklist you and your officers, directors, shareholders, and employees, and limiting future business opportunities. Outstanding debts like unpaid taxes or employee salaries can even result in criminal charges.

Proper Liquidation vs. Hibernation

Full liquidation is the most straightforward option for companies with no future plans in China. It involves settling all debts (taxes, employee salaries, etc.), selling assets, and formally deregistering the company. Though this process can be time-consuming, it ensures a clean break and avoids future complications.

But hibernation might be a good choice if you’re unsure about your long-term China plans or need some time to secure additional resources. Hibernation essentially puts your WFOE on hold by minimizing operations and reducing costs. You’ll need to maintain basic compliance by filing tax returns and keeping a registered address, but revenue generation usually ceases. Though hibernation offers some flexibility, it isn’t a permanent solution. Chinese authorities will eventually pressure you to reinvigorate your WFOE or fully close it, and there are ongoing costs to consider.

Our China lawyers have helped put a number of WFOEs into hibernation, but whenever we do so we always make clear this should not be considered a permanent situation. Chinese authorities often have limited tolerance for inactive WFOEs and may pressure you to close or resume activity after a period of minimal operation. Additionally, ongoing costs persist during hibernation.

But putting your WFOE into hibernation is an alternative to shutting down a WFOE and it sometimes does makes sense, especially now when so much in China is uncertain for foreign companies.


The best closure option depends on your specific situation. Consulting with a lawyer or accountant experienced in Chinese WFOE de-registration is crucial. They can assess your situation, advise on the most suitable route, and guide you through the legalities to ensure a compliant and successful closure.

By taking a proactive approach to your WFOE closure, you can ensure a clean exit from the Chinese market, leaving the door open for potential future endeavors.