The CICPA has issued its annual list of the top CPA firms in China. There are now 7,976 CPA firms in China and 97,510 CPAs. Ten years ago there were 3.870 CPA firms and 48,449 CPAs. Given what has happened in China in the past ten years, I would say that the growth in the profession has not kept up with the demand for professional accountants.
The Top 10 domestic firms (mostly affiliated with second-tier international firms) grew at 38% while the Big Four grew at 6%. BDO Lixin reached 78% of the size of KPMG, the smallest of the Big Four in China. In the U.S., BDO is only 12% of the size of KPMG. The second-tier international firms are rapidly closing the gap with the Big Four in China. I think this is attributable to strong government support for the second tier, including a mandatory audit rotation program for State-owned enterprises. That is not to take away from the brilliant execution of strategy by the second-tier firm senior partners, who clearly know China better than the expatriate Hong Kong partners running the Big Four firms.
Top 10 China CPA firms 2011
Firm name Revenue (RMB ‘000)
Ernst & Young 2,277,493
BDO Lixin 1,504,184
Crowe Horwath 887,479
BDO Da Hua 803,263
These data have limitations. They only include the audit revenue of the Big Four, since these firms operate their consulting practices through wholly foreign owned enterprises. The revenue is also based on self-reported income that is used to determine the assessment on CPA firms.