Navigating the World of Chambers of Commerce in China and beyond: A Comprehensive Guide


Kungfucius is all for leisurely learning languages, traveling and exploring Asia and growing as a person. What if I tell you that there are places that led you deeply integrate into local society?

In China, joining a Chamber of Commerce (商会, shānghuì) can be a valuable resource for businesses and business people looking to expand their networks and access support services. However, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce landscape differs significantly from that in Western countries, with a more centralized and government-influenced structure. 

In this article, we’ll explore the role of Chambers of Commerce in China, their unique characteristics, and some examples both within China and abroad. In South East Asia Business Chambers often fulfill both a business facilitation role and a role in connecting with the culture of the ancestors.

I. International Chambers of Commerce in China

  1. European Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai: The European Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai represents European businesses in China, providing support, information, and networking opportunities. Membership fees and tiers vary, with different categories and benefits available to suit various needs. For more information, visit their website:
  2. American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai: This organization serves as a platform for American businesses operating in China, providing resources, networking events, and advocacy. Similar to the European Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai offers different membership fees and tiers. To learn more, visit their website:

II. Ethnic Chinese Chambers of Commerce

Chambers of Commerce can also be found in various regions with significant Chinese populations, such as Penang, San Francisco, and Jakarta. These organizations often focus on supporting local businesses and fostering cultural exchange within their communities.

There are some large, general chamber of commerce like the following:

But also some more specialized chamber of commerce that cater to specific groups:

  • Kuching Hockien Association 古晋福建公会 (Check their Facebook page)
  • Persatuan Hakka Sandakan (The Hakka Association of Sandakan, Malaysia)

III. Becoming a Member of a Chamber of Commerce

Membership in a Chamber of Commerce is typically open to individuals and businesses with a vested interest in the economic development and growth of the region and a connection with the purpose and background of that chamber of commerce. The process of becoming a member usually involves submitting an application, paying a membership fee, and attending meetings or events to network with other members. 

Fees are often linked to the size of the business and range from few dollar per month to several thousand dollars. The smaller, ethnic-based associations in South East Asia are usually not open for applications. New members will be vetted after an existing member recommends them. 

IV. Benefits for Professional Services Providers

Membership in a Chamber of Commerce can be particularly beneficial for professionals in various service sectors, such as lawyers, auditors, real estate agents, immigration consultants, and headhunters. These individuals can leverage the resources, networking opportunities, and support services provided by the Chamber to expand their client base and enhance their professional reputation.

V. Chinese Vocabulary Related to Chambers of Commerce

  • Joining a Chamber of Commerce: 加入商会 (jiārù shānghuì)
  • Member of a Chamber of Commerce: 商会会员 (shānghuì huìyuán)
  • Working in a Chamber of Commerce: 在商会工作 (zài shānghuì gōngzuò)
  • Attending a meeting of a Chamber of Commerce: 参加商会会议 (cānjiā shānghuì huìyì)
  • Organize Trainings: 组织培训 (Zǔzhī péixùn)
  • Social Network: 人际网络 (Rénjì wǎngluò)
  • Promote business: 推广生意 (Tuīguǎng shēngyì

VI. Personal Experiences of Joining Chambers of Commerce

Kungfucius doesn’t simply join a Chamber of Commerce. But here is a gathering of personal feedback about joining a Chamber of Commerce: 

“I was surprised that some open meetings of the Chamber of Commerce in restaurants is seen by some as dating opportunities.” a Shanghai expat

“Have never been in so many chambers and associations. Internations, AHK, European Chamber of Commerce..” another Shanghai expat

“There are just too many consultants! Some people are too pushy for business.” another Shanghai expat

“My friend is the head of the association and he asked me to join their board. As a lawyer, it is good to connect with others. My father was already in that association and we know each other all very well.” a local Chinese in Malaysia
“I lead the chamber of commerce, sounds good, but now I have 9 bosses. All the board members and the team consists of only one person: me. Organizing meetings, translations, I have to do everything.” a head of a foreign chamber of commerce in Thailand


There are many opportunities to join a Chamber of Commerce. Just make sure it is right for you as it is not only associated with extra costs, but also some extra responsibilities. Especially the smaller chambers have a closely knit net of connections and friendships. While the above mentioned European Chamber of Commerce in China is very large, the ethnic chambers in South-East Asia are often more like religious places or culture NGOs and groups of friends. 
In order to learn Chinese, check out Chinesepod – that have pretty good episodes on business and business associations.