falseFY--12-3100017682597 East Zone,10 Xibeiwang East Road7 East Zone,10 Xibeiwang East RoadClass A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per shareAmerican Depositary Shares, every three representing two Class A ordinary shares00.000.000.00Each Class B ordinary share is convertible into one Class A ordinary sharePrepaid other service fees consist of prepayment of advertising fees and cloud server hosting fees. The prepayments of advertising fees and cloud server hosting fees are generally short-term in nature and are amortized over the related service period.Receivables from third party payment platform consist of cash that has been received from course participants but held by the third-party payment platform. The Group subsequently collected the full balance from the third-party payment platform.The Group holds less than 40% equity interests in several third-party private companies through investments in their common shares or in-substance common share. The Group accounts for the investments under the equity method because the Group has the ability to exercise significant influence but does not have control over the investee. The Group recorded its shares of income in these investments of RMB869, RMB1,348 and RMB63 for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.Refund liability represents the estimated amounts of service fee received that is estimated to be refunded as described in Note 2.The Group recognized revenue from providing technical service.The Group recognized expense from receiving advertising service provided by Beijing Youlian.Beijing Youlian was dissolved in June 2020.Contract cost mainly includes sales commissions to sales personnel and third-party agents which the Group started in July 2019 as described in Note 2.Amount represents receivable from broker related to employee’s stock option exercises in connection with employees’ tax obligations. In 2019 and 2020, certain employees exercised their stock options for which the Company paid the relevant employee’s tax obligations on their behalf to the appropriate taxing authorities. To settle the employees’ obligations with the Company, the Company’s broker withheld some of the employees’ shares and subsequently sold them in the open market at fair value. The receivable represents the cash to be received from the broker related to the above transaction. Long-term available-for-sale debt investments are reported at fair value. Please refer to debt securities investments described in Note 2. Represent the goodwill in the acquisition of Tianjin Puxin in December 2020, which was described as Note 3. 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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
 
 
FORM
20-F
 
 
(Mark One)
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR 12(g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
OR
 
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report
                    
For the transition period from
                    
to
                    
Commission file number:
001-38923
 
 
GSX Techedu Inc.
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
N/A
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
Cayman Islands
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
Tower C, Beyondsoft Building, 7 East Zone,
10 Xibeiwang East Road
Haidian District, Beijing 100193
People’s Republic of China
(Address of principal executive offices)
Nan Shen, Chief Financial Officer
E-mail:
 
shennan@baijia.com
Tower C, Beyondsoft Building, 7 East Zone,
10 Xibeiwang East Road
Haidian District, Beijing 100193
People’s Republic of China
Telephone: +86 10 8282-6826
(Name, Telephone,
E-mail
and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
 
 
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
Title of each class
 
Trading Symbol(s)
 
Name of each exchange on which registered
American Depositary Shares, every three
 
GSX
 
New York Stock Exchange
representing two Class A ordinary shares,
 par
       
value US$0.0001 per share
       
Class A ordinary shares,
     
New York Stock Exchange
par value US$0.0001 per share*
       
 
(1)
*Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing on the New York Stock Exchange of our American depositary shares, every three American depositary shares representing two Class A ordinary shares.
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.
As of December 31, 2020, there were 169,761,062 ordinary shares outstanding, being the sum
of 96,455,774 Class A ordinary shares and 73,305,288 Class B ordinary shares.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    ☒  Yes    ☐  
No
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.    ☐  Yes    
☒  No
Note – Checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from their obligations under those Sections.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    ☒  Yes    ☐  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation
S-T
(§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    ☒  Yes    ☐  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See definition of “accelerated filer and large accelerated filer” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act:
 
Large accelerated filer
     Accelerated filer  ☐  
Non-accelerated filer  ☐
   Emerging growth company     
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  ☐
 
The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  ☒
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has been to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
 
U.S. GAAP  ☒  
International Financial Reporting Standards as issued
   Other  ☐
   
by the International Accounting Standards Board                ☐
    
If “other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.    ☐  Item 17    ☐
  
Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act).
    
☐  Yes    ☒  No
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.    ☐  Yes    ☐  No 
 
 
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
     1  
     2  
     3  
    
ITEM 1.
   IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS      3  
    
ITEM 2.
   OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE      3  
    
ITEM 3.
   KEY INFORMATION      3  
    
ITEM 4.
   INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY      38  
    
ITEM 4.A.
   UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS      68  
    
ITEM 5.
   OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS      68  
    
ITEM 6.
   DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES      86  
    
ITEM 7.
   MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS      94  
    
ITEM 8.
   FINANCIAL INFORMATION      96  
    
ITEM 9.
   THE OFFER AND LISTING      97  
    
ITEM 10.
   ADDITIONAL INFORMATION      97  
    
ITEM 11.
   QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK      111  
    
ITEM 12.
   DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES      112  
PART II.                113  
    
ITEM 13.
   DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES      113  
    
ITEM 14.
   MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS      113  
    
ITEM 15.
   CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES      114  
    
ITEM 16.A.
   AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT      116  
    
ITEM 16.B.
   CODE OF ETHICS      117  
    
ITEM 16.C.
   PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES      117  
    
ITEM 16.D.
   EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES      117  
    
ITEM 16.E.
   PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS      117  
    
ITEM 16.F.
   CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT      117  
    
ITEM 16.G.
   CORPORATE GOVERNANCE      118  
    
ITEM 16.H.
   MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE      118  
PART III.                118  
    
ITEM 17.
   FINANCIAL STATEMENTS      118  
    
ITEM 18.
   FINANCIAL STATEMENTS      118  
    
ITEM 19.
   EXHIBITS      118  
 
i

INTRODUCTION
Unless otherwise indicated and except where the context otherwise requires, references in this annual report to:
 
   
“ADRs” are to the American depositary receipts that may evidence the ADSs;
 
   
“ADSs” are to the American depositary shares, every three of which represent two Class A ordinary shares;
 
   
“Beijing Lexuebang” are to Beijing Lexuebang Network Technology Co., Ltd.;
 
   
“BVI” are to the British Virgin Islands;
 
   
“China” or the “PRC” are to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purposes of this annual report only, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan;
 
   
“Class A ordinary shares” are to our Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
 
   
“Class B ordinary shares” are to our Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
 
   
“gross billings” for a specific period are to the total amount of cash received for the sale of course offerings and membership fees from teachers on our online platform in such period, net of the total amount of refunds in such period;
 
   
“GSX,” “we,” “us,” “our company” and “our” are to GSX Techedu Inc., our Cayman Islands holding company and its subsidiaries, its consolidated variable interest entity and the subsidiaries of the consolidated variable interest entity;
 
   
“NYSE” are to the New York Stock Exchange;
 
   
“our VIE” or “Beijing BaiJia” are to Beijing BaiJia Technology Co., Ltd., formerly known as Beijing BaiJia Hulian Technology Co., Ltd.;
 
   
“paid courses” are to our courses that are charged not less than RMB99.00 per course in fees;
 
   
“paid course enrollments” for a certain period are to the cumulative number of paid courses enrolled in and paid for by our students, including multiple paid courses enrolled in and paid for by the same student;
 
   
“RMB” and “Renminbi” are to the legal currency of China; and
 
   
“US$,” “U.S. dollars,” “$,” and “dollars” are to the legal currency of the United States.
We present our financial results in RMB. We make no representation that any RMB or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or RMB, as the case may be, at any particular rate, or at all. The PRC government imposes control over its foreign currency reserves in part through direct regulation of the conversion of RMB into foreign exchange and through restrictions on foreign trade. This annual report contains translations of certain foreign currency amounts into U.S. dollars for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise stated, all translations of Renminbi into U.S. dollars were made at the rate at RMB6.5250 to US$1.0000, the exchange rate as set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in effect as of December 31, 2020.
 
1

FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
This annual report contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. These statements are made under the “safe harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigations Reform Act of 1995.
You can identify these forward-looking statements by words or phrases such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “aim,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “likely to” or other similar expressions. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:
 
   
our goals and strategies;
 
   
our ability to retain and increase the number of students and expand our service offerings;
 
   
our future business development, financial condition and results of operations;
 
   
expected changes in our revenues, costs or expenditures;
 
   
competition in our industry;
 
   
relevant government policies and regulations relating to our industry;
 
   
general economic and business conditions globally and in China; and
 
   
assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing.
You should read this annual report and the documents that we refer to in this annual report and have filed as exhibits to this annual report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. Other sections of this annual report discuss factors which could adversely impact our business and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors emerge from time to time and it is not possible for our management to predict all risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.
You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. The forward-looking statements made in this annual report relate only to events or information as of the date on which the statements are made in this annual report. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, after the date on which the statements are made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.
 
2

PART I.
 
ITEM 1.
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 2.
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 3.
KEY INFORMATION
 
A.
Selected Financial Data
Selected Consolidated Financial Data
The following selected consolidated statements of operations for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2019 and 2020 and selected consolidated cash flows data for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included in this annual report beginning on page F-1. The following selected consolidated statement of operations for the year ended December 31, 2017, selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017 and 2018, and selected consolidated cash flows data for the year ended December 31, 2017 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements that are not included in this annual report. We have not included financial information for the year ended December 31, 2016 and as of December 31, 2016, as such information cannot be provided on a stand-alone U.S. GAAP basis without unreasonable effort or expense. Our historical results for any period are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any future period. The selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with, and are qualified in their entirety by reference to, our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” below. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP.
 
    
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2017
   
2018
   
2019
   
2020
 
    
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
US$
 
    
(in thousands, except for share amounts and per share data)
 
Selected Consolidated Statements of Operations
          
Net revenues
  
 
97,580
 
 
 
397,306
 
 
 
2,114,855
 
 
 
7,124,744
 
 
 
1,091,915
 
Cost of revenues
(1)
     (25,023     (142,753     (535,912     (1,762,548     (270,122
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Gross profit
  
 
72,557
 
 
 
254,553
 
 
 
1,578,943
 
 
 
5,362,196
 
 
 
821,793
 
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Operating expenses
          
Selling expenses
(1)
     (75,325     (121,518     (1,040,906     (5,816,214     (891,374
Research and development expenses
(1)
     (52,451     (74,050     (212,197     (734,450     (112,559
General and administrative expenses
(1)
     (37,208     (39,831     (110,106     (566,565     (86,830
Total operating expenses
  
 
(164,984
 
 
(235,399
 
 
(1,363,209
 
 
(7,117,229
 
 
(1,090,763
(Loss) income from operations
  
 
(92,427
 
 
19,154
 
 
 
215,734
 
 
 
(1,755,033
 
 
(268,970
Interest income
     189       2,193       8,861       3,372       517  
Realized gains from investments
     —         —         11,395       70,403       10,790  
Other income
     2,004       495       6,462       269,657       41,327  
Other expenses
     (50     (445     (213     (16,011     (2,454
Impairment loss on equity method investment
     (1,070     —         —         —         —    
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
(Loss) income before provision for income tax and share of results of equity investees
  
 
(91,354
 
 
21,397
 
 
 
242,239
 
 
 
(1,427,612
 
 
(218,790
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Income tax benefits (expenses)
     4,620       (2,616     (16,957     34,619       5,306  
Share of results of equity investees
     (221     869       1,348       63       10  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net (loss) income
  
 
(86,955
 
 
19,650
 
 
 
226,630
 
 
 
(1,392,930
 
 
(213,474
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Series A convertible redeemable preferred shares redemption value accretion
     (38,930     (38,930     (16,772     —         —    
Undistributed earnings allocated to the participating preferred shares
     —         —         (21,698     —         —    
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net (loss) income attributable to GSX Techedu Inc.’s ordinary shareholders
  
 
(125,885
 
 
(19,280
 
 
188,160
 
 
 
(1,392,930
 
 
(213,474
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net (loss) income per ordinary share
          
Basic
     (1.36     (0.21     1.42       (8.72     (1.34
Diluted
     (1.36     (0.21     1.35       (8.72     (1.34
Weighted average shares used in net (loss) income per share
          
Basic
     92,224,998       92,224,998       132,400,941       159,725,779       159,725,779  
Diluted
     92,224,998       92,224,998       139,477,898       159,725,779       159,725,779  
 
3

Notes:
(1)
Share-based compensation expenses are in cost of revenues and operating expenses as follows:
 
    
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2017
    
2018
    
2019
    
2020
 
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
US$
 
    
(in thousands)
 
Share-based compensation expenses
                          
Cost of revenues
     3        283        16,504        66,422        10,180  
Selling expenses
     373        429        5,606        18,039        2,765  
Research and development expenses
     276        782        16,357        94,952        14,552  
General and administrative expenses
     5,136        4,423        21,770        59,033        9,046  
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Total
  
 
5,788
 
  
 
5,917
 
  
 
60,237
 
  
 
238,446
 
  
 
36,543
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
The following table presents our selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020:
 
    
As of December 31,
 
    
2017
   
2018
   
2019
    
2020
 
    
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
    
RMB
    
US$
 
    
(in thousands)
 
Cash and cash equivalents
     19,294       33,259       73,967        355,224        54,440  
Short-term investments
     7,974       197,991       1,473,452        7,331,268        1,123,566  
Total current assets
     52,345       280,801       1,808,901        8,457,248        1,296,130  
Long-term investments
     7,604       5,221       1,188,286        530,729        81,338  
Total assets
  
 
103,213
 
 
 
338,203
 
 
 
3,394,532
 
  
 
10,685,792
 
  
 
1,637,670
 
    
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Current liabilities
     155,013       355,912       1,637,250        4,197,392        643,279  
Total liabilities
  
 
155,500
 
 
 
364,682
 
 
 
1,837,177
 
  
 
4,955,937
 
  
 
759,531
 
    
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Total mezzanine equity
     427,130       466,060       —          —          —    
Total shareholders’ (deficit) equity
  
 
(479,417
 
 
(492,539
 
 
1,557,355
 
  
 
5,729,855
 
  
 
878,139
 
    
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
The following table presents our selected consolidated cash flow data for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020:
 
    
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2017
   
2018
   
2019
   
2020
 
    
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
RMB
   
US$
 
    
(in thousands)
 
Selected Consolidated Cash Flow Data:
                                        
Net cash (used in) generated from operating activities
     (49,643     241,869       1,285,054       603,273       92,455  
Net cash used in investing activities
     (10,140     (198,720     (2,504,566     (5,596,304     (857,671
Net cash generated from (used in) financing activities
     56,531       (29,193     1,246,065       5,272,100       807,985  
Effect of exchange rate changes
     (40     9       14,155       2,188       335  
Net (decrease) increase in cash and cash equivalents
     (3,292     13,965       40,708       281,257       43,104  
Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of year
     22,586       19,294       33,259       73,967       11,336  
Cash and cash equivalents at end of year
     19,294       33,259       73,967       355,224       54,440  
    
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
B.
Capitalization and Indebtedness
Not Applicable.
 
C.
Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
Not Applicable.
 
4

D.
Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
If we are not able to continue to attract students to purchase our course packages and to increase the spending of our students, our business and prospects will be materially and adversely affected.
Our ability to continue to attract students to purchase our course packages and to increase their spending are critical to the continued success and growth of our business. This in turn will depend on several factors, including our ability to engage, train and retain high quality teaching staff, continue to develop, adapt or enhance quality of our course offerings to meet the evolving demands of our existing or prospective students, and effectively market our course offerings and enhance our brand awareness to a broader base of prospective students. We may not always be able to meet our students’ expectations in terms of academic performance due to a variety of reasons, many of which are outside of our control. We may face student dissatisfaction due to our students’ perceptions of our failure to help them achieve their anticipated academic goals, our students’ overall dissatisfaction with the quality of our education content offerings and our teaching staff, as well as changing views of the value of the diplomas, degrees and qualifications they are pursuing through taking our courses. We must also manage our growth while maintaining consistent and high teaching quality, and respond effectively to competitive pressures. If we are unable to continue to attract students to purchase our course packages and to increase the spending of our students, our gross billings and net revenues may decline, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have grown rapidly and expect to continue to invest in our growth for the foreseeable future. If we fail to manage this growth effectively, the success of our business model will be compromised.
We have experienced rapid growth in recent years. Our rapid growth has placed, and will continue to place, a significant strain on our demand for more teaching staff and IT support staff, administrative and operating infrastructure, educational content development, sales and marketing capacities, facilities and other resources. To maintain our growth, we need to continue to attract more students, scale up our education content offerings, increase our educational content development professionals and employees of other functions, as well as strengthen our technology and infrastructure. We will also be required to refine our operational, financial and management controls and reporting systems and procedures. If we fail to efficiently manage this expansion of our business, our costs and expenses may increase more than we plan and we may not successfully attract a sufficient number of students and teaching staff in a cost-effective manner, respond to competitive challenges, or otherwise execute our business strategies.
Our ability to effectively implement our strategies and manage any significant growth of our business will depend on a number of factors, including our ability to: (i) effectively recruit, train, retain and motivate a large number of new employees, particularly our teaching staff, IT support staff and educational content development professionals; (ii) continue to improve our operational, financial and management controls and efficiencies; (iii) successfully implement enhancements and improvements to the systems and infrastructures; (iv) improve education contents to make them appealing to existing and prospective students, particularly K-12 students; (v) maintain and increase our paid course enrollments; (vi) improve our sales and marketing efficiency; (vii) protect and further develop our intellectual property rights; and (viii) make sound business decisions in light of the scrutiny associated with operating as a public company. These activities require significant capital expenditures and investment of valuable management and financial resources, and our growth will continue to place significant demands on our management. There are no guarantees that we will be able to effectively manage any future growth in an efficient, cost-effective and timely manner, or at all. Our growth in a relatively short period of time is not necessarily indicative of results that we may achieve in the future. If we do not effectively manage the growth of our business and operations, our reputation, results of operations and overall business and prospects could be negatively impacted.
We have a limited operating history with our current business model, which makes it difficult to predict our prospects and our business and financial performance.
We have a short operating history with our current business model focusing on providing online live large-classes. We transitioned from a membership-based service platform connecting teaching staff and students to our current business model in March 2017. Our limited history of operating under the current business model may not serve as an adequate basis for evaluating our prospect and operating results, including gross billings, net revenues, cash flows and operating margins. We have encountered, and may continue to encounter in the future, risks, challenges and uncertainties associated with operating an internet-based education business, such as building and managing reliable and secure IT systems and infrastructure, addressing regulatory compliance and uncertainty, engaging, training and retaining high quality employees such as our teaching staff and IT support staff, and improving and expanding our education content offering. If we do not manage these risks successfully, our operating and financial results may differ materially from our expectations and our business and financial performance may suffer.
 
5

If we are not able to continue to engage, train and retain high quality teaching staff, we may not be able to maintain consistent teaching quality, and our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We have adopted a dual-teacher system, comprised of high quality instructors and professional tutors. Our teaching staff is critical to the learning experience of our students and our reputation. We seek to engage high quality teaching staff with strong education background and teaching skills. We must provide competitive pay and offer attractive career development opportunities to attract and retain them. We must also provide ongoing training to our teaching staff to ensure that they stay abreast of changes in course materials, student demands and other changes and trends necessary to teach effectively. Furthermore, as we continue to develop new education content, we may need to engage additional high quality teaching staff with appropriate skill sets or backgrounds to deliver instructions effectively. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to effectively engage and train such teaching staff quickly, or at all. Furthermore, given other potential more attractive opportunities for our quality teaching staff, over time some of them may choose to leave us. Departure of quality teaching staff may reduce the attractiveness of our course offerings and negatively impact our paid course enrollments. Furthermore, in the event such quality teaching staff join our competitors, students may decide to follow such quality teaching staff and enroll in their courses offered through other online education companies, which may further weaken our competitive position in the industry. Although we have not experienced major difficulties in engaging, training or retaining high quality teaching staff in the past, we may not always be able to engage, train and retain enough high quality teaching staff to keep pace with our growth while maintaining consistent education quality. We may also face significant competition in engaging high quality teaching staff from our competitors or from other opportunities that are perceived as more desirable. A shortage of high quality teaching staff, a decrease in the quality of our teaching staff’s performance, whether actual or perceived, or a significant increase in the cost to engage or retain high quality teaching staff would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have incurred net losses in the past, and we may not remain profitable or increase profitability in the future.
We generated a net loss of RMB1,392.9 million (US$213.5 million) in 2020, compared to a net income of RMB226.6 million and RMB19.7 million in 2019 and 2018, respectively, and a net loss of RMB87.0 million in 2017. We cannot assure you that we will be able to continue generate net profits or positive cash flow from operating activities in the future. Our ability to maintain profitability will depend in large part on our ability to maintain or increase our operating margin, either by growing our revenues at a rate faster than our costs and operating expenses increase, or by reducing our costs and operating expenses as a percentage of our net revenues. Accordingly, we intend to continue to invest to attract new students, hire high quality teaching staff, and strengthen our technologies and data analytics capabilities to enhance student experience. As a result of the foregoing, we may not remain profitable or increase our profitability in the future.
We face intense competition, which could divert students to our competitors, lead to pricing pressure and loss of market shares, and significantly reduce our net revenues.
The online education industry in China is intensely competitive, and we expect competition in this sector to persist and intensify. We face competition in each part of our service offerings from other online educational service providers. Some of our current or future competitors may have longer operating histories, greater brand recognition, or greater financial, technical or marketing resources than we do. We compete with these online education service providers across a range of factors, including, among others, high quality instructors in the education industry, technology infrastructure and data analytics capabilities, quality of our education services and students’ learning experience, brand recognition and scope of our course offerings. Our competitors may adopt similar curricula and marketing approaches, with different pricing and service packages that may have greater appeal than our offerings. In addition, some of our competitors may have more resources than we do and may be able to devote greater resources than we can to the development and promotion of their services and respond more quickly than we can to the changes in student preferences, testing materials, admission standards, market needs or new technologies. If we reduce course fees or increase spending in response to competition in order to retain or attract students and high quality teaching staff, or pursue new market opportunities, our net revenues may decrease and our costs and expenses may increase as a result of such actions which may adversely affect our operating margins. If we are unable to successfully compete for students, maintain or increase our level of course fees, attract and retain competent teaching staff or other key personnel, maintain our competitiveness in terms of the quality of our education services in a cost-effective manner, our net revenues may be materially and adversely affected.
 
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If we are not able to improve or maintain our sales and marketing efficiency, our business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Selling expenses represent a significant portion of our operating expenses. We incurred RMB121.5 million, RMB1,040.9 million and RMB5,816.2 million (US$891.4 million) in selling expenses in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. Our sales and marketing activities may not be well received by students and may not result in the levels of sales that we anticipate and our trial courses may not be attractive to our prospective students. For example, if our students attending trial courses do not purchase our standard courses, our business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. Furthermore, we may not be able to maintain or further improve our operational efficiency. We also may not be able to retain or recruit experienced sales staff, or to efficiently train junior sales staff. In addition, marketing and branding approaches and tools in the online education market in China are evolving. This further requires us to enhance our marketing and branding approaches and experiment with new methods to keep pace with industry developments and student preferences. Failure to refine our existing marketing and branding approaches or to introduce new marketing and branding approaches in a cost-effective manner may reduce our market share, cause our revenues to decline and negatively impact our operating margins.
Techniques employed by short sellers may drive down the market price of our listed securities.
Short selling is the practice of selling securities that a seller does not own but rather has borrowed from a third party with the intention of buying identical securities back at a later date to return to the lender. Short sellers hope to profit from a decline in the value of the securities between the sale of the borrowed securities and the purchase of the replacement shares, as short sellers expect to pay less in that purchase than they received in the sale. As it is in short sellers’ interest for the price of the security to decline, many short sellers publish, or arrange for the publication of, negative opinions and allegations regarding the relevant issuer and its business prospects in order to create negative market momentum and generate profits for themselves after selling a security short. These short attacks have, in the past, led to selling of shares in the market.
Public companies listed in the United States that have substantially all of their operations in China have been the subject of short selling. Such short selling was often driven by short seller reports, which often were based on allegations including inadequacies in internal control and/or corporate governance or a lack of adherence thereto and accounting irregularities and mistakes. As a result, many of these companies are now conducting internal and external investigations into the allegations and, in the interim, are subject to shareholder lawsuits and/or SEC enforcement actions.
We have been, and continue to be, the subject of unfavorable allegations made by short sellers. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings” for more information about short seller reports published against us and the related SEC investigation and class action lawsuit. In May 2020, Muddy Waters published a short seller report against us, which caused temporary fluctuations in the price of our ADSs following the report. Any such allegations may be followed by periods of instability in the market price of our ADSs and negative publicity. Regardless of whether such allegations are proven to be true or untrue, we may have to expend a significant amount of resources to investigate such allegations and/or defend ourselves, including in connection with class actions or regulatory enforcement actions derivative of such allegations. While we would strongly defend against any such short seller attacks, we may be constrained in the manner in which we can proceed against the relevant short sellers by principles of freedom of speech, applicable state law or issues of commercial confidentiality. Such a situation could be costly and time-consuming, and could divert management’s attention from the day-to-day operations of our company. Even if such allegations are ultimately proven to be groundless, allegations against us could negatively impact the market price of our securities and our business operations.
We face risks associated with our reliance on certain top quality instructors.
We rely on certain top quality instructors to deliver our course offerings. We generated 36.3% and 29.4% of our total net revenues from courses delivered by our top 10 instructors, ranked by net revenues generated from courses taught by each instructor in a given period, in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Our reliance on certain top quality instructors may expose us to concentration risks. If we lose our top quality instructors to competitors, the attractiveness of our course offerings may be adversely affected, which could have an adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.
 
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Uncertainties exist in relation to new legislation or proposed changes in the PRC regulatory requirements regarding online private education, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The private education industry in the PRC is subject to regulations in various aspects. Relevant rules and regulations are relatively new and evolving and could be changed to accommodate the development of the education, in particular, the online private education, markets from time to time.
In August 2018, the Ministry of Justice, or MOJ, published the draft amendment to the Regulations on the Implementation of the Law for Promoting Private Education of the PRC, or MOJ Draft, for public comment. According to the MOJ Draft, we must file with the department of education at the provincial level, as we provide online non-diploma-awarding education services. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Government Regulations—The Law for Promoting Private Education and its Implementing Rules.” As of the date of this annual report, the MOJ Draft is still pending for final approval and has not come into effect. It remains uncertain when and how the MOJ Draft would come into effect, and whether and how local governments would promulgate rules related to the filing or licensing requirement applicable to online education service providers like us. If we are not able to comply with the filing or licensing requirement in a timely manner or at all, we may be subject to fines, confiscation of the gains derived from our non-compliant operations, suspension of our non-compliant operations or claims for compensation of any economic loss suffered by our students or other relevant parties.
Further, the Ministry of Education, or the MOE, jointly with certain other PRC government authorities, promulgated the Implementation Opinions on Regulating Online After-School Training, or the Online After-School Training Opinions, effective on July 12, 2019. The Online After-School Training Opinions are intended to regulate academic after-school training involving internet technology provided to students in primary and secondary schools. Among other things, the Online After-School Training Opinions require that online after-school training institutions shall file with the competent provincial education regulatory authorities and that such education regulatory authorities and other provincial government authorities shall jointly review these filings and the qualifications of the institutions making these filings. The Online After-School Training Opinions also impose a number of new regulations requiring, among other things, that (i) each class shall not last longer than 40 minutes and shall be taken at intervals of not less than 10 minutes; (ii) live streaming courses provided to students receiving compulsory education shall not end later than 9:00 p.m.; (iii) fees shall not be collected in a lump sum for more than 60 classes when charged based on the number of classes, or for a course length of more than three months when charged based on the length of the course; (iv) instructors are required to obtain the necessary teaching qualification licenses; and (v) information including the names, photos and teaching qualification licenses of instructors, fee charging items, standards and refund methods shall be made public at the eye-catching positions of the training platform and the course interface. According to the Online After-School Training Opinions, provincial education regulatory authorities shall promulgate local implementing rules regarding these filing requirements. On September 29, 2019, the education regulatory authority in Beijing promulgated the Trial Implementation Rules on Filings of Beijing Online After-School Training, or the Beijing Online After-School Training Implementation Rules. The Beijing Online After-School Training Implementation Rules are applicable to training institutions that are registered in Beijing or complete ICP filings with the competent authorities in Beijing and provide online academic after-school training to students in primary and secondary schools. Pursuant to the Beijing Online After-School Training Implementation Rules, online after-school training institutions shall submit filings for providing online after-school training services via an online national platform for online after-school administration services, and the education regulatory authorities in Beijing and other government authorities shall jointly complete review of such filings. On February 5, 2021, Beijing Municipal Education Commission issued an inspection notice, or the Beijing Inspection Notice, which requires online after-school institutions to conduct self-inspections for their compliance of Online After-School Training Opinions; specifically, the Beijing Inspection Notice requires institutions to take academic after-school training courses off the shelve, if such courses are taught by instructors without teaching qualifications. The Beijing Inspection Notice also requires online afterschool institutions to complete rectification within ten days, and in case of failure to complete the rectification within such time limit, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education will, in concert with cyberspace administration and market supervision departments, suspend or remove the online training courses that fail to meet the requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations. In April 2021, the general office of MOE issued the Circular on Strengthening the Operation Management of Compulsory Education Schools. Such circular prohibits after-school training institutions from assigning homework to primary and secondary school students. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Government Regulations—Regulation Related to Private Education—Regulation Related to After-School Tutoring.” 
 
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We have completed the filings in accordance with the Online After-School Training Opinions and the Beijing Online After-School Training Implementation Rules, and relevant education regulatory authorities have completed the review of our filings. In September 2020, we were included on the list issued by the Beijing Municipal Education Commission which confirmed our completion of filings with it. We have also completed the required self-inspection and rectifications pursuant to the Beijing Inspection Notice. As of the date of this annual report, 73% of our K-12 instructors have obtained teaching qualification licenses, and 8% have passed the teaching qualification exam, which is the prerequisite for obtaining teaching qualification license. We have notified our K-12 instructors of the requirement to obtain the teaching qualification licenses. It is uncertain, however, whether and how PRC government authorities would further promulgate new laws and regulations applying the requirements on various aspects, including but not limited to prepaid funds under supervision, teachers’ qualification licenses, means and time of fee collection, pricing, refunds, course content and homework arrangement, course time arrangement, student enrollment, advertising, and teaching methods, under these circulars, opinions or implementation rules to online training institutions like us. Moreover, relevant government authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing these laws, regulations, circulars and opinions, and may conduct inspections on compliance with requirements thereunder. There is no assurance that we can comply with any promulgated laws and regulations in a timely manner or at all, and any failure to comply may subject us to fines, penalties, rectifications and other regulatory measures, and may in turn materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Given the foregoing, the interpretation and application of the existing laws and regulations and the newly promulgated implementation rules and interpretations, if any, that governs the online private education industry would create substantial uncertainties regarding the legality of our business operation, which create risks that we may be found to violate the existing laws and regulations and any newly promulgated implementation rules and interpretations.
We face uncertainties with respect to the development of regulatory requirements on operating licenses and permits for our online education services in China. Failure to renew requested licenses or permits in a timely manner or obtain newly required ones due to adverse changes in regulations or policies could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The internet industry and education industry in China are highly regulated by the PRC government. As an internet-based education service provider, we are required to obtain and maintain all necessary approvals, licenses or permits applicable to our business operations and make all necessary registration and filings for our education services in China, and we may be required to apply for and obtain additional licenses or permits for our operations as the interpretation and implementation of current PRC laws and regulations are still evolving, and new laws and regulations may also be promulgated.
Our VIE, Beijing BaiJia and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Shanghai Jinyou Education Technology Co., Ltd., each currently holds a Value-added Telecommunications Business Operating License for internet information service and our VIE, Beijing BaiJia currently holds an Internet Cultural Business Operating License and a Permit for Production and Operation of Radio and TV Programs. Tianjin Puxin Online School Education Technology Co., Ltd. currently holds a Value-added Telecommunications Business Operating License and a Publication Operation License. We may be required to apply for and obtain additional licenses, permits or recordation, given the significant uncertainties of the interpretation and implementation of certain regulatory requirements applicable to online education business. As of the date of this annual report, online education institutions are not explicitly required to obtain the License for Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs primarily because there are no implementation rules, explicit interpretation from government authorities or prevailing enforcement practice deeming internet education services as “internet audio-visual program” as defined in relevant rules and regulations promulgated by relevant government authorities. In addition, as of the date of this annual report, there are no implementation rules, explicit interpretation from government authorities or prevailing enforcement practice deeming the provision of our educational content to our students through our online platform as “online publishing” which requires an Online Publishing Service Permit. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Government Regulations.” However, there is no assurance that local PRC authorities will not adopt different enforcement practice, or any PRC government will not issue more explicit interpretation and rules or promulgate new laws and regulations from time to time to further regulate the online education industry, which may subject us to additional licensing requirements to continue to operate our business. We also print and provide physical education materials to our students. If the government authorities deem such activities as “publication distribution” under Administrative Provisions on the Publications Market, we may be required to obtain the Publication Operation License and failure to obtain such license may subject us to fines and we may be ordered by the competent government authorities to suspend printing and providing such offline educational materials to our students, which will materially and adversely affect our business operation. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Government Regulations—Regulation Related to Publication Distribution.” As of the date of this annual report, no material fines or other penalties have been imposed on us for failure to obtain such additional licenses, permits or recordation, including, among other things, License for Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs, Online Publishing Services Permit and Publication Operation License.
There can be no assurance that once required, we will be able to obtain all the required approvals, licenses, permits and complete all necessary filings, record renewals and registrations on a timely basis for our online education services, given the significant amount of discretion the PRC authorities may have in interpreting, implementing and enforcing relevant rules and regulations, as well as other factors beyond our control and anticipation. If we fail to obtain required permits in a timely manner or obtain or renew any permits and certificates, or fail to complete the necessary filings, record renewals or registrations on a timely basis, we may be subject to fines, confiscation of the gains derived from our non-compliant operations, suspension of our non-compliant operations or claims for compensation of any economic loss suffered by our students or other relevant parties.
 
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Our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has continued to spread across the world and has created unique global and industry-wide challenges. COVID-19 has resulted in quarantines, travel restrictions, and the temporary closure of facilities in China and many other countries. New COVID-19 variants have also emerged in a few countries, potentially extending the period where COVID-19 will negatively impact the global economy.
All of our revenues and our workforce are concentrated in China. Consequently, our results of operations and financial performance may be adversely affected, to the extent that COVID-19 exerts long-term negative impact on the Chinese economy. The disruption of COVID-19 to business activities in China has been eliminated to a large extent, however, it is still difficult to predict how COVID-19 will impact our business in the near term. We have taken measures to reduce the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including encouraging and supporting our employees to participate in vaccination programs in accordance with the latest national policy and optimizing our technology system to support remote work arrangements and potential growth in user traffic, and we likely will have to adopt similar measures if new COVID-19 variants strike in a future wave. To the extent that potential future waves of COVID-19 disrupt school operations and semester schedules in China, we may face operational challenges with respect to continuing to offer our online courses and effective service our students and teachers. Any reduction in disposable income of our users resulting from a worsening economy still under COVID-19’s influence may also lessen demands for our services or put price pressure on our services. The duration and extent of impact of such business disruptions, lower demands or price pressure on our operating results and financial performance cannot be reasonably estimated at this time. The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our results will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain, including the availability and effectiveness of any new vaccines and the emergence of any new COVID-19 variants, among others.
We may not be able to maintain or increase our course fee level.
Our results of operations are affected by the pricing of our education services. We determine our course fees primarily based on the demand for our educational programs, the cost of our operations, the course fees charged by our competitors, our pricing strategy to gain market share and general economic conditions in the PRC. We believe our high quality course offerings have enabled us to charge above-market course fees. Although we charge premium course fees for our courses compared with our competitors, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to maintain or increase our course fee in the future without adversely affecting the demand for our education services.
Refunds or potential refund disputes of our course fees may negatively affect our cash flows, financial condition, and reputation.
For our online courses, we offer refunds for any remaining classes in a course to students who withdraw from the course. The refund is equal to the amount related to the undelivered classes. The number of refund requests and the amount of refunds could be affected by a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control. These factors include, without limitation to, student dissatisfaction with our teaching quality and our education content offerings, privacy concerns relating to our online platforms, negative publicity regarding us or online education in general, and any change or development in PRC laws and regulations with respect to fees and tuitions charged by online education service providers like us. Any refund payments that we may be required to make to our students, as well as the expenses we could incur for processing refunds and resolving refund disputes, could be substantial and could adversely affect our business operations and financial condition. A high volume of refunds and refund disputes may also generate negative publicity that could harm our reputation.
Any significant disruption to or failures of our information technology systems, including events beyond our control, could reduce student satisfaction and could harm our reputation and cause our education services to be less attractive to our students.
The performance and reliability of our information technology system is critical to our operations and reputation. Our network infrastructure is currently deployed and our data is currently mainly maintained through a third-party cloud computing service provider in China. Our operations depend on the service provider’s ability to protect its and our system in its facilities against events such as damage or interruption from natural disasters, power or telecommunications failures, air quality issues, environmental conditions, computer viruses or attempts to harm our systems, criminal acts and similar events, which events are beyond our control. If our arrangement with such service provider is terminated or if there is a lapse of service or damage to their facilities, we could experience interruptions in our service. Any interruptions in the accessibility of or deterioration it the quality of access to our system could reduce students’ satisfaction and result in reduction in the number of students using our services, which would reduce the attractiveness of our education content offering services.
 
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In addition, we rely on third-party mobile app distribution channels, to distribute our mobile apps to students. As such, the promotion, distribution and operation of our mobile apps are subject to such distribution channels’ standard terms and policies for app developers, which are subject to the interpretation of, and frequent changes by, these distribution channels. For example, our mobile app, Genshuixue, was temporarily removed from Apple’s App Store for two days in September 2019. We promptly implemented the required measures to meet Apple’s requirements for in-app purchases and reinstated our Genshuixue app downloads from Apple’s App Store. If Apple’s App Store or any other major distribution channel interprets or changes its standard terms and conditions in a manner that is detrimental to us in the future, or terminate its existing relationship with us, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
If we fail to adopt new technologies that are important to our business, our competitive position and ability to generate revenues may be materially and adversely affected.
The technology used in internet and value-added telecommunications services in general, and in online education services in particular, may evolve and change over time. As a technology-driven education company, we must anticipate and adapt to such technological changes, and adopt new technologies in a timely fashion. If we fail to do so, our market share and our business development could suffer, which in turn would have a material and adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. If we are unsuccessful in addressing any of the risks relating to failure to adopt new technologies, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
Our failure to protect our intellectual property rights may undermine our competitive position, and litigation to protect our intellectual property rights or defend against third-party allegations of infringement may be costly and ineffective.
We believe that our copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property are essential to our success. We have devoted considerable time and energy to the development and improvement of our websites, mobile apps, our system infrastructure and our course materials.
We rely primarily on copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets and other contractual restrictions for the protection of the intellectual property used in our business. Nevertheless, these provide only limited protection and the actions we take to protect our intellectual property rights may not be adequate. Our trade secrets may become known or be independently discovered by our competitors. Third parties may in the future pirate our course materials and may infringe upon or misappropriate our other intellectual property. Infringement upon or the misappropriation of, our proprietary technologies or other intellectual property could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Although we have taken measures to monitoring and policing the unauthorized use of our copyrighted course materials, policing the unauthorized use of intellectual property rights can be difficult and expensive. In addition, we and our instructors whom we have signed exclusive contracts with and engage in content development may be deemed to have joint ownership over intellectual properties relating to our course content. Our instructors may continue to use these course content if they resign with us and join our competitors, which may negatively impact the attractiveness of our courses to prospective students and parents. Although we have entered into agreements with certain instructors to prohibit them from using our course content without our prior consent, we cannot ensure compliance of instructors with such agreement.
Also, litigation may be necessary to enforce our intellectual property rights, protect our trade secrets or determine the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others. Such litigation may be costly and divert management’s attention away from our business. An adverse determination in any such litigation would impair our intellectual property rights and may harm our business, prospects and reputation. The legal regime relating to the recognition and enforcement of intellectual property rights in China is particularly limited, and does not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Legal proceedings to enforce our intellectual property in China may progress slowly, during which time infringement may continue largely unimpeded. Enforcement of judgments in China is uncertain, and even if we are successful in litigation, it may not provide us with an effective remedy. In addition, we have no insurance coverage against litigation costs and would have to bear all costs arising from such litigation to the extent we are unable to recover them from other parties. The occurrence of any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
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We have been and may again be subject to legal proceedings, claims and investigations in the ordinary course of business, including for allegations relating to our infringement of intellectual property rights of third parties. If the outcomes of these proceedings, claims and investigations are adverse to us, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
We have and may continue to be involved in legal proceedings, claims and government investigations that have arisen in the ordinary course of our business and have not yet been fully resolved, including allegations against us for potential infringement of third-party’s copyrights or other intellectual property rights. New legal proceedings, claims and investigations may arise in the future. The existence of litigation, claims, investigations and proceedings may harm our reputation, business and adversely affect the trading price of our ADSs.
In April 2020, a putative shareholder class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey against our company, our chief executive officer and our chief financial officer: Wu v. GSX Techedu Inc., et al, No. 2:20-cv-04457-ES-CLW (filed on April 17, 2020). On November 2, 2020, lead and named plaintiffs filed—purportedly on behalf of a class of persons who allegedly suffered damages as a result of their purchases or acquisitions of our ADSs between June 6, 2019 and October 20, 2020 — an amended class action complaint, which alleges that our company’s public filings with the SEC contained material misstatements or omissions in violation of the federal securities laws. The action remains at its preliminary stages as of the date of this annual report. We believe the case is without merit and intend to defend the action vigorously. In the event we do not prevail or we enter into settlement arrangements in the aforementioned class action, we may incur significant expenses which may materially adversely affect our results of operations.
The SEC’s Division of Enforcement has sought the production of certain financial and operating records dating from January 1, 2017 following a number of short-seller reports about us from approximately early- to mid-2020. We are cooperating and will continue to cooperate with the SEC, but we cannot predict the duration, outcome, or impact of the SEC investigation. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings.”
We have been, and are now subject to allegations on the grounds of intellectual property rights infringement and other legal theories based on the content of the materials that we or our teaching staff distribute or use in our business operation. We may encounter disputes from time to time over rights and obligations concerning intellectual property and other legal rights, in particular third-party’s copyrights that may be infringed by us or our teaching staff in our business operation, and we may not prevail in those disputes.
Regardless of the merit of particular claims, legal proceedings and investigations may result in reputational harm or loss of goodwill associated with our brand and be expensive, time consuming, disruptive to our operations and distracting to management. If a lawsuit against us is successful, we may be required to pay substantial damages and/or enter into royalty or license agreements that may not be based upon commercially reasonable terms, or we may be unable to enter into such agreements at all. We may also lose, or be limited in, the rights to offer some of our programs, parts of our platform and products or be required to make changes to our course materials or websites. As a result, the scope of our course materials could be reduced, which could adversely affect the effectiveness of our curriculum, limit our ability to attract new students, harm our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
If our security measures are breached or failed and result in unauthorized disclosure or unintended leakage of data, we could lose existing students, fail to attract new students and be exposed to protracted and costly litigation.
Maintaining platform security is of critical importance to us because we store and transmit proprietary and confidential information, which includes proprietary and confidential student, parent and teaching staff information, such as names, addresses, ID card number, bank account number and other personal information, which is primarily stored in our digital database. To ensure the confidentiality and integrity of our data, we maintain a comprehensive and rigorous data security program. For example, we anonymize and encrypt confidential personal information and take other technological measures to ensure the secure processing, transmission and usage of data. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Data Privacy and Security.” These measures, however, may not be as effective as we anticipate. If our security measures are breached or fail and result in unauthorized disclosure or unintended leakage of data, third parties may receive or be able to access student, parent, teaching staff and other records, which could subject us to liabilities, interrupt our business and adversely impact our reputation. Furthermore, we currently face certain legal obligations regarding the manner in which we treat such information. Increased regulation of data utilization practices, including self-regulation or findings under existing laws that limit our ability to collect, transfer and use data, could have an adverse effect on our business. If we were to disclose data about our students, parents and teaching staff in a manner that was objectionable to them, our business reputation could be adversely affected, and we could face potential legal claims that could impact our operating results. Failure to comply with these obligations could subject us to liability, and to the extent that we need to alter our business model or practices to adapt to these obligations, we could incur additional expenses.
 
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Any of these issues could harm our reputation, adversely affect our ability to attract and enroll prospective students, cause prospective students not to enroll or stay enrolled, or subject us to third-party lawsuits, regulatory fines or other action or liability. Further, any reputational damage resulting from breach of our security measures could create distrust of our company by prospective students or investors. We may be required to expend significant additional resources to protect us against the threat of security measures breaches or to alleviate problems caused by such disruptions or breaches.
We are subject to a variety of laws and other obligations regarding data protection, and any failure to comply with applicable laws and obligations could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business generates and processes a large quantity of personal and behavioral data. We face risks inherent in handling large volumes of data and in protecting the security and privacy of such data. We are subject to various regulatory requirements relating to the security and privacy of data, including restrictions on the collection, storage and use of personal information and requirements to take steps to prevent personal data from being divulged, stolen, or tampered with. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Regulation—PRC Regulations—Regulation Related to Internet Information Security and Privacy Protection.” Regulatory requirements regarding the protection and privacy of data are constantly evolving and can be subject to differing interpretations or significant change, making the extent of our responsibilities in that regard uncertain. We have been taking and will continue to take reasonable measures to comply with the data protection related laws and regulations; however, as the laws and regulations are relatively new, we cannot assure you we can adapt our operations to it in a timely manner. Evolving interpretations of data protection related laws and regulations or any future regulatory changes might impose additional restrictions on us generating and processing personal and behavioral data.
In December 2019, the PIPTFA, an administrative task force in the PRC founded to review mobile apps for their compliance with PRC data privacy laws (i.e., Personal Information Security Specification), issued a notice of criticism directed at several mobile apps including ours. The notice of criticism stated that our mobile app collected sensitive personal data such as ID card number and bank account number without notifying users of the purpose of such information collection. Since the publication of the notice of criticism, we have updated our mobile app to address all of the issues brought up in the notice, and the updated mobile app has been reviewed and approved as compliant with PRC data privacy laws by the PIPTFA. In December 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or the MIIT, has issued a notice which listed our mobile app, among others, for forcing users to use targeted push function. We have updated our mobile app to address all of the issues stated in such notice, and the updated mobile app has been reviewed and approved as compliant with PRC data privacy laws by the MIIT.
We cannot guarantee that our mobile app will always be considered compliant with PRC data privacy laws by the PIPTFA and pass the inspection of the MIIT. Any failure, or perceived failure, by us, or by our third-party providers, to maintain the security of our user data or to comply with applicable privacy, data security and personal information protection laws, regulations, policies, contractual provisions, industry standards, and other requirements, may result in civil or regulatory liability, including governmental or data protection authority enforcement actions and investigations, fines, penalties, enforcement orders requiring us to cease operating in a certain way, litigation, or adverse publicity, and may require us to expend significant resources in responding to and defending allegations and claims. Moreover, claims or allegations that we have failed to adequately protect our users’ data, or otherwise violated applicable privacy, data security and personal information protection laws, regulations, policies, contractual provisions, industry standards, or other requirements, may result in damage to our reputation and a loss of confidence in us by our users, potentially causing us to lose paid course enrollments, content providers and revenues, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our advertising content may subject us to penalties and other administrative actions.
Under PRC advertising laws and regulations, we are obligated to monitor our advertising content to ensure that such content is true and accurate and in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Violation of these laws and regulations may subject us to penalties, including fines, confiscation of our advertising income, orders to cease dissemination of the advertisements and orders to publish an announcement correcting the misleading information. In circumstances involving serious violations by us, PRC governmental authorities may force us to terminate our advertising operations or revoke our licenses. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Government Regulations—Regulation Related to Advertising.”
 
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We use customer management tools with automatic message sending and receiving functions to automatically distribute promotion-related information to our users. While these customer management tools play an important role in our advertising content, they may subject us to violations and penalties under the Anti-Unfair Competition Law of the PRC.
While we have made significant efforts to ensure that our advertisements are in full compliance with applicable PRC laws and regulations, we cannot assure you that all the content contained in such advertisements is in compliance with relevant laws, regulations and regulatory requirements, especially given the uncertainty in the interpretation of these PRC laws and regulations. Our failure to comply with the existing and future laws, regulations and regulatory requirements may subject us to fines, penalties, rectifications and other regulatory measures. In April 2021, due to the way we represented our teachers and courses in certain advertisements and the way we displayed promotional prices for certain of our courses in our mobile app, we were found by PRC regulatory authorities to have violated the Price Law of the PRC and advertising laws and regulations, and we were consequently warned and imposed fines totaling RMB0.7 million (US$0.1 million). Further, despite any contractual safeguard, the advertising agencies we have worked with or will work with are not fully under our control, and they have committed and may again commit misconducts or otherwise produce subpar advertising content that give rise to false advertisement claims. In December 2020, one of the advertising agencies we worked with used an actor purporting to be an experienced English teacher to advertise one of our courses, and this actor was later found to not have the qualifications she purported to have in the advertisement at all. In April 2021, we were fined approximately RMB262 thousand (US$42 thousand) by the relevant governmental authority for such misleading content in our advertisement. Any violations of applicable PRC advertising laws and regulations in the future may subject us to administrative actions or even penalties, and our reputation may be harmed as a result, which may negatively affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Failure to adequately and promptly respond to changes in examination systems, admission standards, test materials, teaching methods and regulation changes in the PRC could render our courses and services less attractive to students.
In China, school admissions rely heavily on examination results, and students’ performance in these exams is critical to their education and future employment prospects. It is therefore common for students to take after-school tutoring classes to improve their test performance, and the success of our business to a large extent depends on the continued use of entrance exams or tests by schools in their admissions. However, such heavy emphasis on examination scores may decline or fall out of favor with educational institutions or government authorities in China.
Admission and assessment processes undergo continuous changes, in terms of subject and skill focus, question type, examination format and the manner in which the processes are administered. We are therefore required to continually update and enhance our curricula, course materials and teaching methods. Any failure to respond to the changes in a timely and cost-effective manner will adversely impact the marketability of our services and products, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Regulations and policies that decrease the weight of scholastic competition achievements in the admissions process mandated by government authorities or adopted by schools may have an impact on our enrollments. For example, the MOE issued certain implementation guidelines in March 2019 to clarify that, public schools and private schools are not allowed to use examinations to select their students for admission to middle schools from primary schools. Failure to track and respond to these changes in a timely and cost-effective manner would render our courses, services and products less attractive to students, which may materially and adversely affect our reputation and ability to continue to attract students.
We may not be able to timely develop our education content offerings in a cost-effective manner to make them appealing to existing and prospective students, or at all.
Our educational content development team works closely with our instructors on developing, updating and improving our course materials to stay abreast of the latest educational trends in their respective subject areas. The adjustments, updates and expansions of our existing education content offerings and the development of new course materials may not be accepted by existing or prospective students. Even if we are able to develop acceptable new course materials, we may not be able to introduce them as quickly as students require or as quickly as our competitors introduce competing offerings. Furthermore, offering new courses materials or upgrading existing ones may require us to commit significant resources and make significant investments in educational content development. If we are unsuccessful in pursuing educational content development and upgrading opportunities due to the financial constraints, failure to attract educational content development professionals or qualified instructors, or other factors, our ability to attract and retain students could be impaired and our financial results could suffer.
 
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We cannot assure you that we will not be subject to liability claims for any inappropriate or illegal content in our education content offerings, which could cause us to incur legal costs and damages our reputation.
We implement strict monitoring procedures to remove inappropriate or illegal content. However, we cannot assure you that there will be no inappropriate or illegal materials included in our education contents. In addition, our quiz questions designed internally based on our understanding of the relevant examination requirements may be investigated by the regulatory authorities. Therefore, we may face civil, administrative or criminal liability if an individual or corporate, governmental or other entity believes that our education content offering violates any laws, regulations or governmental policies or infringes upon its legal rights. Even if such a claim were not successful, defending such a claim may cause us to incur substantial costs. Moreover, any accusation of inappropriate or illegal content in our education content offerings could lead to significant negative publicity, which could harm our reputation and future business prospects.
The recognition of our brand may be adversely affected by any negative publicity concerning us and our business, shareholders, affiliates, directors, officers, teaching staff and other employees, as well as the industry in which we operate, regardless of its accuracy, that could harm our reputation and business.
We believe that the market recognition of our brand has significantly contributed to the success of our business and that maintaining and enhancing our brand recognition is critical to sustaining our competitive advantages. Negative publicity about us and our business, shareholders, affiliates, directors, officers, teaching staff and other employees, as well as the industry in which we operate, can harm the recognition of our brand. Negative publicity, regardless of merits, could be related to a wide variety of matters, including but not limited to:
 
   
alleged misconduct or other improper activities committed by our students or our directors, officers, teaching staff and other employees, including misrepresentation made by our employees to potential students during sales and marketing activities, and other fraudulent activities to artificially inflate the popularity of our services or course offerings;
 
   
false or malicious allegations or rumors about us or our directors, shareholders, affiliates, officers, and teaching staff and other employees;
 
   
complaints by our students about our education services and sales and marketing activities;
 
   
complaints about the truthfulness or authenticity of the advertisements for our course offerings or services;
 
   
refund disputes of course fees between us and our students or administrative penalties;
 
   
employment-related claims relating to alleged employment discrimination, wage and hour violations;
 
   
governmental and regulatory investigations or penalties resulting from our failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations; and
 
   
governmental or regulatory penalties imposed on our shareholders for any misconduct, whether or not it involves us or our business operations.
In addition to traditional media, there has been an increasing use of social media platforms and similar devices in China, including instant messaging applications, social media websites and other forms of internet-based communications that provide individuals with access to a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons. The availability of information on instant messaging applications and social media platforms is virtually immediate as is its impact without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction. The opportunity for dissemination of information, including inaccurate information, is seemingly limitless and readily available. Information concerning our company, shareholders, affiliates, directors, officers, teaching staff and other employees, may be posted on such platforms at any time. The risks associated with any such negative publicity or incorrect information cannot be completely eliminated or mitigated and may materially harm the recognition of our brand, our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
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If our senior management and other key personnel is unable to work together effectively or efficiently or if we lose their services, our business may be severely affected.
The continued services of our senior management and other key personnel is important to our continued success. In particular, we rely on the expertise and experience of Mr. Larry Xiangdong Chen, our founder, chairman and CEO. We also rely on the experience and services from other senior management. If they cannot work together effectively or efficiently, our business may be severely disrupted. If one or more of our senior management were unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we might not be able to replace them easily or at all, and our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. If any of our senior management joins a competitor or forms a competing business, we may lose students, teaching staff, and other key professionals and staff members. Our senior management has entered into employment agreements with us which contain confidentiality clauses, as well as standalone confidentiality and non-compete agreements. However, if any dispute arises between our senior management and us, we may have to incur substantial costs and expenses in order to enforce such agreements in China or we may be unable to enforce them at all.
We are subject to third-party payment processing-related risks.
We accept payments through major third-party online payment channels in China, as well as bank transfers for our customers. We may also be susceptible to fraud, user data leakage and other illegal activities in connection with the various payment methods we offer. In addition, our business depends on the billing, payment and escrow systems of the third-party payment service providers to maintain accurate records of payments by customers and collect such payments. If the quality, utility, convenience or attractiveness of these payment processing and escrow services declines, or if we have to change the pattern of using these payment services for any reason, the attractiveness of our company could be materially and adversely affected. We are also subject to various rules, regulations and requirements, regulatory or otherwise, governing electronic funds transfers which could change or be reinterpreted to make it difficult or impossible for us to comply. If we fail to comply with these rules or requirements, we may be subject to fines and higher transaction fees and become unable to accept the current online payments solutions from our customers, and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. Business involving online payment services is subject to a number of risks that could materially and adversely affect third-party online payment service providers’ ability to provide payment processing and escrow services to us, including:
 
   
dissatisfaction with these online payment services or decreased use of their services;
 
   
increasing competition, including from other established Chinese internet companies, payment service providers and companies engaged in other financial technology services;
 
   
changes to rules or practices applicable to payment systems that link to third-party online payment service providers;
 
   
breach of customers’ personal information and concerns over the use and security of information collected from buyers;
 
   
service outages, system failures or failures to effectively scale the system to handle large and growing transaction volumes;
 
   
increasing costs to third-party online payment service providers, including fees charged by banks to process transactions through online payment channels, which would also increase our costs of revenues; and
 
   
failure to manage funds accurately or loss of funds, whether due to employee fraud, security breaches, technical errors or otherwise.
 
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Our brand image, business and results of operations may be adversely impacted by students and employees’ misconduct, improper activities and misuse of our platform, many of which are beyond our control.
We allow teaching staff to engage in real-time communication with our students. Our courses undergo multiple rounds of internal review and pilot testing before being broadly released. Our tutors and quality assurance team monitor our live courses, chat messages and other content on our platform to ensure that we are able to identify content that may be deemed inappropriate or violation of laws, regulations and government policies. When any inappropriate or illegal content is identified, we promptly remove the content. However, since we have limited control over the real-time and offline behavior of our students, teaching staff, to the extent any improper behavior is associated with our platforms, our ability to protect our brand image and reputation may be limited. In addition, if any of our students, teaching staff suffer or allege to have suffered physical, financial or emotional harm following contact initiated on our platform, we may face civil lawsuits or other liabilities initiated by the affected student, teaching staff, or governmental or regulatory actions against us. In response to allegations of illegal or inappropriate activities conducted on our platform or any negative media coverage about us, PRC governmental authorities may intervene and hold us liable for non-compliance with PRC laws and regulations concerning the dissemination of information on the internet and subject us to administrative penalties or other sanctions, such as requiring us to restrict or discontinue some of the features and services provided on our platform. As a result, our business may suffer and our brand image, student base, results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.
We are exposed to the risk of other types of employee fraud or other misconduct. Other types of employee misconduct include intentionally failing to comply with government regulations, engaging in unauthorized activities and misrepresentation to our prospective students during marketing activities, which could harm our reputation. It is not always possible to deter employee misconduct, and the precautions we take to prevent and detect this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses, which could harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We face risks related to natural and other disasters, including outbreaks of health epidemics or severe weather conditions, and other extraordinary events, which could significantly disrupt our operations.
China has experienced significant natural disasters, including earthquakes, extreme weather conditions, as well as health scares related to epidemic diseases, and any similar event could materially impact our business in the future. If a disaster or other disruption were to occur in the future that affects the regions where we operate our business, our operations could be materially and adversely affected due to loss of personnel and damages to property.
In addition, our business could be affected by public health epidemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, H1N1 flu, H7N9 flu, avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, Zika virus, Ebola virus or other epidemics. If any of our employees is suspected of having contracted a contagious disease, we may be required to apply quarantines or suspend our operations. Furthermore, any future outbreak may restrict economic activities in affected regions, resulting in reduced business volume, temporary closure of our offices or otherwise disrupt our business operations and adversely affect our results of operations.
We may not be able to achieve the benefits we expect from recent and future investments and acquisitions.
We have made and may continue to make equity investments or acquisition in additional businesses that complement our existing business. We may not be able to successfully integrate acquired businesses and we may not have control over the businesses or operations of our minority equity investments, the value of which may decline over time. As a result, our business and results of operations could be harmed. In addition, if the businesses we acquire or invest in do not subsequently generate the anticipated financial performance or if any goodwill impairment test triggering event occurs, we may need to revalue or write down the value of goodwill and other intangible assets in connection with such acquisitions or investments, which would harm our results of operations. In addition, we may be unable to identify appropriate acquisition or strategic investment targets when it is necessary or desirable to make such acquisition or investment to remain competitive or to expand our business. Even if we identify an appropriate acquisition or investment target, we may not be able to negotiate the terms of the acquisition or investment successfully, finance the proposed transaction or integrate the relevant businesses into our existing business and operations. Furthermore, as we often do not have control over the companies in which we only have minority stake, we cannot ensure that these companies will always comply with applicable laws and regulations in their business operations. Material non-compliance by our investees may cause substantial harms to our reputations and the value of our investment.
Our results of operations are subject to seasonal fluctuations.
Seasonal fluctuations have affected, and are likely to affect our business in the future. Historically, we typically generate the highest growth in net revenues in the second and fourth quarters because of the increased paid course enrollments during summer vacation and beginning of the fall semester. Overall, the historical seasonality of our business has been relatively mild due to our rapid growth but seasonality may increase in the future. Due to our limited operating history, the seasonal trends that we have experienced in the past may not be indicative of our future operating results. Our financial condition and results of operations for future periods may continue to fluctuate. As a result, the trading price of our ADSs may fluctuate from time to time due to seasonality.
 
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We have granted, and expect to continue to grant, share-based awards under our share incentive plan, which may result in increased share-based compensation expenses.
We have granted options and restricted share units, and recorded RMB5.9 million, RMB60.2 million and RMB238.4 million (US$36.5 million) in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively, in share-based compensation expenses in relation to such share-based award grants. We expect to continue to grant awards under our share incentive plan, which we believe is of significant importance to our ability to attract and retain key personnel and employees. As a result, our expenses associated with share-based compensation may increase, which may have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
If we cannot maintain our corporate culture as we grow, we could lose the innovation, collaboration and focus that contribute to our business.
We believe that a critical component of our success is our corporate culture, which fosters innovations and has roots in a deep understanding of our students and the evolving education industry in China. As we continue to expand and grow our business, we may find it difficult to maintain these valuable aspects of our corporate culture. Any failure to preserve our culture could undermine our reputation in the marketplace and negatively impact our ability to attract and retain employees and students, which would in turn jeopardize our future success.
We have limited business insurance coverage, which could expose us to significant costs and business disruption.
Insurance companies in China currently do not offer as extensive an array of insurance products as insurance companies in more developed economies. We do not maintain any liability insurance or property insurance policies covering equipment and facilities for injuries, death or losses due to fire, earthquake, flood or any other disaster. Consistent with customary industry practice in China, we do not maintain business interruption insurance, nor do we maintain key-man life insurance. We have determined that the costs of insuring for these risks and the difficulties associated with acquiring such insurance on commercially reasonable terms make it impractical for us to have such insurance. Any uninsured business disruptions may result in our incurring substantial costs and the diversion of resources, which could have an adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may be unable to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud, and investor confidence and the market price of our ADSs may be adversely impacted.
We are subject to reporting obligations under the U.S. securities laws. Since our initial public offering, we have also become subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Commencing with our fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, we must perform system and process evaluation and testing of our internal control over financial reporting to allow management to report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting in our Form 20-F filing for the year, as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In addition, as we have ceased to be an “emerging growth company” as such term is defined in the JOBS Act, our independent registered public accounting firm must attest to and report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting beginning with our annual report for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
Our management has concluded that our internal controls over financial reporting were effective as of December 31, 2020. Our independent registered public accounting firm has issued an attestation report, which has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective in all material aspects as of December 31, 2020. See “Item 15. Controls and Procedures.” However, if we fail to maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting in the future, our management and our independent registered public accounting firm may not be able to conclude that we have effective internal controls over financial reporting at a reasonable assurance level. This could result in a loss of investor confidence in the reliability of our financial conditions which in turn could negatively impact the trading price of our ADSs and result in lawsuits being filed against us by our shareholders or otherwise harm our reputation. Furthermore, we have incurred and anticipate that we will continue to incur considerable costs and use significant management time and other resources in an effort to comply with Section 404 and other requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
 
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Our ADSs may be delisted under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act if the PCAOB is unable to inspect auditors who are located in China. The delisting of our ADSs, or the threat of their being delisted, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment. Additionally, the inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections deprives our investors with the benefits of such inspections.
The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the HFCA Act, was enacted on December 18, 2020. The HFCA Act states if the SEC determines that we have filed audit reports issued by a registered public accounting firm that has not been subject to inspection by the PCAOB for three consecutive years beginning in 2021, the SEC shall prohibit our shares or ADSs from being traded on a national securities exchange or in the over the counter trading market in the U.S.
Our auditor, the independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included elsewhere in this annual report, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the PCAOB, is subject to laws in the United States pursuant to which the PCAOB conducts regular inspections to assess its compliance with the applicable professional standards. Since our auditor is located in China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB has been unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities, our auditor is currently not inspected by the PCAOB.
On March 24, 2021, the SEC adopted interim final rules relating to the implementation of certain disclosure and documentation requirements of the HFCA Act. We will be required to comply with these rules if the SEC identifies us as having a “non-inspection” year under a process to be subsequently established by the SEC. The SEC is assessing how to implement other requirements of the HFCA Act, including the listing and trading prohibition requirements described above.
The SEC may propose additional rules or guidance that could impact us if our auditor is not subject to PCAOB inspection. For example, on August 6, 2020, the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, or the PWG, issued the Report on Protecting United States Investors from Significant Risks from Chinese Companies to the then President of the United States. This report recommended the SEC implement five recommendations to address companies from jurisdictions that do not provide the PCAOB with sufficient access to fulfil its statutory mandate. Some of the concepts of these recommendations were implemented with the enactment of the HFCA Act. However, some of the recommendations were more stringent than the HFCA Act. For example, if a company was not subject to PCAOB inspection, the report recommended that the transition period before a company would be delisted would end on January 1, 2022.
The SEC has announced that the SEC staff is preparing a consolidated proposal for the rules regarding the implementation of the HFCA Act to address the recommendations in the PWG report. It is unclear when the SEC will complete its rulemaking and when such rules will become effective and what, if any, of the PWG recommendations will be adopted. The implications of this possible regulation in addition to the requirements of the HFCA Act are uncertain. Such uncertainty could cause the market price of our ADSs to be materially and adversely affected, and our securities could be delisted or prohibited from being traded “over-the-counter” earlier than would be required by the HFCA Act. If our securities are unable to be listed on another securities exchange by then, such a delisting would substantially impair your ability to sell or purchase our ADSs when you wish to do so, and the risk and uncertainty associated with a potential delisting would have a negative impact on the price of our ADSs.
The PCAOB’s inability to conduct inspections in China prevents it from fully evaluating the audits and quality control procedures of our independent registered public accounting firm. As a result, we and investors in our ordinary shares are deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections. The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China makes it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our independent registered public accounting firm’s audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China that are subject to the PCAOB inspections, which could cause investors and potential investors in our stock to lose confidence in the audit procedures and reported financial information and the quality of our financial statements.
In May 2013, the PCAOB announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Enforcement Cooperation with the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, and the PRC Ministry of Finance, which establishes a cooperative framework between the parties for the production and exchange of audit documents relevant to investigations undertaken by the PCAOB in the PRC or by the CSRC or the PRC Ministry of Finance in the United States. The PCAOB continues to be in discussions with the CSRC and the PRC Ministry of Finance to permit joint inspections in the PRC of audit firms that are registered with the PCAOB and audit Chinese companies that trade on U.S. exchanges.
 
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A severe or prolonged downturn in the Chinese or global economy could materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.
COVID-19 has had a severe and negative impact on the Chinese and global economy since early 2020. Whether this will lead to a prolonged downturn in the economy is still unknown, especially considering the multiple recent outbreaks in various countries and regions as well as the uncertainties brought by the newly launched vaccination programs. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the global macroeconomic environment had been facing challenges. The growth of the Chinese economy has gradually slowed down in recent years and the trend may continue. There is considerable uncertainty over the long-term effects of the monetary and fiscal policies adopted by the central banks and financial authorities of some of the world’s leading economies, including the United States and China. There have been concerns over unrest and terrorist threats in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. There have also been concerns on the relationship between China and other countries, including surrounding Asian countries, which may potentially lead to foreign investors closing down their businesses or withdrawing their investments in China and, thus, exiting the China market, and other economic effects. In particular, there is significant uncertainty about the future relationship between the United States and China with respect to trade policies, treaties, government regulations and tariffs. Economic conditions in China are sensitive to global economic conditions, as well as changes in domestic economic and political policies and the expected or perceived overall economic growth rate in China. Any severe or prolonged slowdown in the global or Chinese economy may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Proceedings instituted by the SEC against Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, could result in financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
Starting in 2011 the PRC-based “big four” accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, were affected by a conflict between U.S. and Chinese law. Specifically, for certain U.S.-listed companies operating and audited in mainland China, the SEC and the PCAOB sought to obtain from the Chinese firms access to their audit work papers and related documents. The firms were, however, advised and directed that under Chinese law, they could not respond directly to the U.S. regulators on those requests, and that requests by foreign regulators for access to such papers in China had to be channeled through the CSRC.
In late 2012, this impasse led the SEC to commence administrative proceedings under Rule 102(e) of its Rules of Practice and also under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 against the Chinese accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm. A first instance trial of the proceedings in July 2013 in the SEC’s internal administrative court resulted in an adverse judgment against the firms. The administrative law judge proposed penalties on the firms including a temporary suspension of their right to practice before the SEC, although that proposed penalty did not take effect pending review by the Commissioners of the SEC. On February 6, 2015, before a review by the Commissioners had taken place, the firms reached a settlement with the SEC. Under the settlement, the SEC accepts that future requests by the SEC for the production of documents will normally be made to the CSRC. The firms will receive matching Section 106 requests, and are required to abide by a detailed set of procedures with respect to such requests, which in substance require them to facilitate production via the CSRC. If they fail to meet specified criteria, the SEC retains authority to impose a variety of additional remedial measures on the firms depending on the nature of the failure. Remedies for any future noncompliance could include, as appropriate, an automatic six-month bar on a single firm’s performance of certain audit work, commencement of a new proceeding against a firm, or, in extreme cases, the resumption of the current proceeding against all four firms. If additional remedial measures are imposed on the PRC-based “big four” accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, in administrative proceedings brought by the SEC alleging the firms’ failure to meet specific criteria set by the SEC with respect to requests for the production of documents, we could be unable to timely file future financial statements in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
In the event that the SEC restarts the administrative proceedings, depending upon the final outcome, listed companies in the United States with major PRC operations may find it difficult or impossible to retain auditors in respect of their operations in the PRC, which could result in financial statements being determined not to be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act, including possible delisting. Moreover, any negative news about any such future proceedings against these audit firms may cause investor uncertainty regarding China-based, U.S.-listed companies and the market price of our ADSs may be adversely affected.
 
20

If our independent registered public accounting firm was denied, even temporarily, the ability to practice before the SEC and we were unable to timely find another registered public accounting firm to audit and issue an opinion on our financial statements, our financial statements could be determined to be not in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act. Such a determination could ultimately lead to the delisting of the ADSs from the New York Stock Exchange or deregistration from the SEC, or both, which would substantially reduce or effectively terminate the trading of the ADSs in the United States.
Increases in labor costs in the PRC may adversely affect our business and results of operations.
The currently effective PRC Labor Contract Law was taking effect from January 1, 2008 and later amended on December 28, 2012. The PRC Labor Contract Law has reinforced the protection of employees who, under the PRC Labor Contract Law, have the right, among others, to have written labor contracts, to enter into labor contracts with no fixed term under certain circumstances, to receive overtime wages and to terminate or alter terms in labor contracts. Furthermore, the PRC Labor Contract Law sets forth additional restrictions and increases the costs involved with dismissing employees. To the extent that we need to significantly reduce our workforce, the PRC Labor Contract Law could adversely affect our ability to do so in a timely and cost-effective manner, and our results of operations could be adversely affected.
Our operations depend on the performance of the internet infrastructure and telecommunications networks in China.
The successful operation of our business depends on the performance of the internet infrastructure and telecommunications networks in China. Almost all access to the internet is maintained through state-owned telecommunications operators under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of the MIIT. Moreover, we have entered into contracts with various subsidiaries of a limited number of telecommunications service providers at provincial level and rely on them to provide us with data communications capacity through local telecommunications lines. We have limited access to alternative networks or services in the event of disruptions, failures or other problems with China’s internet infrastructure or the telecommunications networks provided by telecommunications service providers. We regularly serve a large number of students. With the expansion of our business, we may be required to upgrade our technology and infrastructure to keep up with the increasing traffic on our online platform. However, we have no control over the costs of the services provided by telecommunications service providers. If the prices we pay for telecommunications and internet services rise significantly, our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. If internet access fees or other charges to internet users increase, our user traffic may decline and our business may be harmed.
Failure to make adequate contributions to various employee benefits plans as required by PRC regulations may subject us to penalties.
Companies operating in China are required to participate in various government-sponsored employee benefit plans, including certain social insurance and housing funds, and contribute to the plans in amounts equal to certain percentages of salaries, including bonuses and allowances, of employees up to a maximum amount specified by the local government from time to time at locations where our employees are based. In 2020, our PRC entities were able to enjoy reductions and/or exemptions for certain mandatory social security insurance payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which may gradually cease in 2021. The requirement of employee benefit plans has not been implemented consistently by the local governments in China given the different levels of economic development in different locations. To efficiently administrate the contribution of employment benefit plans of our employees in some cities, we engage third-party agents to make the contribution for our employees. Our failure in making contributions to various employee benefit plans and in complying with applicable PRC labor-related laws may subject us to late payment fees and labor disputes, and we could be required to make up the contributions for these plans as well as to pay late fees, and fines. If we are subject to late fees, fines or labor disputes in relation to the underpaid employee benefits, or are required to make up the contributions for these plans, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected. In addition, to the extent that we can make a reasonable estimate of the liability arising from our failure in making full contributions to various employee benefit plans, we record a related contingent liability. However, the amount of our estimates may be inaccurate, in which case our financial condition and cash flow may be adversely affected if we were to pay late fees or fines in relation to the underpaid employee benefits.
 
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Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating certain of our operations in China do not comply with PRC regulations relating to the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations.
Foreign ownership in entities that provide value-added telecommunication services (except for e-commerce, domestic multi-party communications, store-and-forward and call center), such as provision of internet video, is subject to restrictions under current PRC laws and regulations. Specifically, foreign ownership of an internet information service provider may not exceed 50%, and the major foreign investor is required to have a record of good performance and operating experience in managing value-added telecommunications business. We are a company registered in the Cayman Islands. Beijing Lexuebang is our PRC subsidiary and a foreign-invested enterprise under PRC laws. To comply with PRC laws and regulations, we conduct our business in China primarily through Beijing BaiJia, our consolidated variable interest entity, or our VIE, and its subsidiaries, based on a series of contractual arrangements by and among Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and its shareholders. For a description of these contractual arrangements, see “Item 4. Information on the Company—C. Organizational Structure.” As a result of these contractual arrangements, we exert control over our VIE and consolidate financial results of our VIE and its subsidiaries in our financial statements under U.S. GAAP. Our VIE holds the licenses, approvals and key assets that are essential for our operations.
In the opinion of our PRC counsel, Tian Yuan Law Firm, (i) the ownership structure of our VIE and Beijing Lexuebang in China does not result in any violation of PRC laws and regulations currently in effect; and (ii) the contractual arrangements among Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and its shareholders governed by PRC law will not result in any violation of PRC laws or regulations currently in effect. However, we have been further advised by our PRC counsel that there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current or future PRC laws and regulations. Thus, the PRC government may ultimately take a view contrary to the opinion of our PRC counsel. If the PRC government otherwise find that we are in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations or lack the necessary permits or licenses to operate our business, the relevant governmental authorities would have broad discretion in dealing with such violation, including, without limitation:
 
   
revoking the business licenses and/or operating licenses of such entities;
 
   
imposing fines on us;
 
   
confiscating any of our income that they deem to be obtained through illegal operations;
 
   
discontinuing or placing restrictions or onerous conditions on our operations;
 
   
placing restrictions on our right to collect revenues; and
 
   
shutting down our servers or blocking our app/websites.
Any of these events could cause significant disruption to our business operations and severely damage our reputation, which would in turn materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If occurrences of any of these events results in our inability to direct the activities of our VIE in China that most significantly impact its economic performance, and/or our failure to receive the economic benefits from our consolidated variable interest entity, we may not be able to consolidate its financial results in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.
We rely on contractual arrangements with our VIE and its shareholders for our business operations, which may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing operational control.
We have relied and expect to continue to rely on contractual arrangements with our VIE, and its shareholders to operate our business in China. These contractual arrangements may not be as effective as direct ownership in providing us with control over our VIE. For example, our VIE and its shareholders could breach their contractual arrangements with us by, among other things, failing to conduct the operations of our VIE in an acceptable manner or taking other actions that are detrimental to our interests.
 
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If we had direct ownership of our VIE in China, we would be able to exercise our rights as a shareholder to effect changes in the board of directors of our VIE, which in turn could implement changes, subject to any applicable fiduciary obligations, at the management and operational level. However, under the current contractual arrangements, we rely on the performance by our VIE and its shareholders of their obligations under the contracts to exercise control over our VIE. The shareholders of our VIE may not act in the best interests of our company or may not perform their obligations under these contracts. Such risks exist throughout the period in which we intend to operate certain portion of our business through the contractual arrangements with our VIE. If any dispute relating to these contracts remains unresolved, we will have to enforce our rights under these contracts through the operations of PRC law and arbitration, litigation and other legal proceedings and therefore will be subject to uncertainties in the PRC legal system. See “—Any failure by our VIE or its shareholders to perform their obligations under our contractual arrangements with them would have a material and adverse effect on our business.” Therefore, our contractual arrangements with our VIE may not be as effective in ensuring our control over the relevant portion of our business operations as direct ownership would be.
Any failure by our VIE or its shareholders to perform their obligations under our contractual arrangements with them would have a material and adverse effect on our business.
If our VIE or its shareholders fail to perform their respective obligations under the contractual arrangements, we may have to incur substantial costs and expend additional resources to enforce such arrangements. We may also have to rely on legal remedies under PRC law, including seeking specific performance or injunctive relief, and contractual remedies, which we cannot assure you will be sufficient or effective under PRC law. For example, if the shareholders of our VIE were to refuse to transfer their equity interests in our VIE to us or our designee if we exercise the purchase option pursuant to these contractual arrangements, or if they were otherwise to act in bad faith toward us, then we may have to take legal actions to compel them to perform their contractual obligations.
All the agreements under our contractual arrangements are governed by PRC law and provide for the resolution of disputes through arbitration in China. Accordingly, these contracts would be interpreted in accordance with PRC law and any disputes would be resolved in accordance with PRC legal procedures. The legal system in the PRC is not as developed as in some other jurisdictions, such as the United States. As a result, uncertainties in the PRC legal system could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements. Meanwhile, there are very few precedents and little formal guidance as to how contractual arrangements in the context of a consolidated variable interest entity should be interpreted or enforced under PRC law. There remain significant uncertainties regarding the ultimate outcome of such arbitration should legal action become necessary. In addition, under PRC law, rulings by arbitrators are final, parties cannot appeal the arbitration results in courts, and if the losing parties fail to carry out the arbitration awards within a prescribed time limit, the prevailing parties may only enforce the arbitration awards in PRC courts through arbitration award recognition proceedings, which would require additional expenses and delay. In the event we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements, or if we suffer significant delay or other obstacles in the process of enforcing these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over our VIE, and our ability to conduct our business may be negatively affected. See “—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system could adversely affect us.”
The shareholders of our VIE may have actual or potential conflicts of interest with us, which may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.
The shareholders of our VIE may have actual or potential conflicts of interest with us. These shareholders may breach, or cause our VIE to breach, or refuse to renew, the existing contractual arrangements we have with them and our VIE, which would have a material and adverse effect on our ability to effectively control our VIE and receive economic benefits from it. For example, the shareholders may be able to cause our agreements with our VIE to be performed in a manner adverse to us by, among other things, failing to remit payments due under the contractual arrangements to us on a timely basis. We cannot assure you that when conflicts of interest arise any or all of these shareholders will act in the best interests of our company or such conflicts will be resolved in our favor. Currently, we do not have any arrangements to address potential conflicts of interest between these shareholders and our company. If we cannot resolve any conflict of interest or dispute between us and these shareholders, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which could result in disruption of our business and subject us to substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.
 
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Contractual arrangements in relation to our VIE may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities and they may determine that we or our PRC consolidated variable interest entity owes additional taxes, which could negatively affect our financial condition and the value of your investment.
Under applicable PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties may be subject to audit or challenge by the PRC tax authorities. We could face material and adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements in relation to our VIE, our consolidated variable interest entity, were not entered into on an arm’s length basis in such a way as to result in an impermissible reduction in taxes under applicable PRC laws, rules and regulations, and adjust income of our VIE in the form of a transfer pricing adjustment. A transfer pricing adjustment could, among other things, result in a reduction of expense deductions recorded by our VIE for PRC tax purposes, which could in turn increase its tax liabilities without reducing our PRC subsidiary’s tax expenses. In addition, the PRC tax authorities may impose late payment fees and other penalties on our VIE for the adjusted but unpaid taxes according to the applicable regulations. Our financial position could be materially and adversely affected if our VIE’s tax liabilities increase or if it is required to pay late payment fees and other penalties.
We may lose the ability to use and enjoy assets held by our VIE that are material to the operation of certain portion of our business if the entity goes bankrupt or becomes subject to a dissolution or liquidation proceeding.
As part of our contractual arrangements with our VIE, our VIE holds certain assets that are material to the operation of certain portion of our business, including permits, domain names and most of our IP rights. If our VIE goes bankrupt and all or part of its assets become subject to liens or rights of third-party creditors, we may be unable to continue some or all of our business activities, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Under the contractual arrangements, our VIE may not, in any manner, sell, transfer, mortgage or dispose of its assets or legal or beneficial interests in the business without our prior consent. If our VIE undergoes a voluntary or involuntary liquidation proceeding, the independent third-party creditors may claim rights to some or all of these assets, thereby hindering our ability to operate our business, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance, business, financial condition and results of operations.
On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress promulgated the Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and replaced the trio of existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. The Foreign Investment Law embodies an expected PRC regulatory trend to rationalize its foreign investment regulatory regime in line with prevailing international practice and the legislative efforts to unify the corporate legal requirements for both foreign and domestic investments. However, since it is relatively new, uncertainties still exist in relation to its interpretation and implementation, and failure to take timely and appropriate measures to cope with the regulatory-compliance challenges could result in material and adverse effect on us. For instance, though the Foreign Investment Law does not explicitly classify contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, it contains a catch-all provision under the definition of “foreign investment”, which includes investments made by foreign investors in China through means stipulated in laws or administrative regulations or other methods prescribed by the State Council. Therefore, it still leaves leeway for future laws, administrative regulations or provisions promulgated by the State Council to provide for contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment, at which time it will be uncertain whether our contractual arrangements will be deemed to be in violation of the market access requirements for foreign investment in the PRC and if yes, how our contractual arrangements should be dealt with. In addition, if future laws, administrative regulations or provisions prescribed by the State Council mandate further actions to be taken by companies with respect to existing contractual arrangements, we may face substantial uncertainties as to whether we can complete such actions in a timely manner, or at all. In the worst-case scenario, we may be required to unwind our existing contractual arrangements and/or dispose of the relevant business operations, which could have a material and adverse effect on our current corporate structure, corporate governance, business, financial condition and results of operations.
It may be difficult for overseas regulators to conduct investigation or collect evidence within China.
Shareholder claims or regulatory investigation that are common in the United States generally are difficult to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in China. For example, in China, there are significant legal and other obstacles to providing information needed for regulatory investigations or litigation initiated outside China. Although the authorities in China may establish a regulatory cooperation mechanism with the securities regulatory authorities of another country or region to implement cross-border supervision and administration, such cooperation with the securities regulatory authorities in the Unities States may not be efficient in the absence of mutual and practical cooperation mechanism. Furthermore, according to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law, or Article 177, which became effective in March 2020, no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within the territory of the PRC. While detailed interpretation of or implementation rules under Article 177 have yet to be promulgated, the inability for an overseas securities regulator to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within China may further increase difficulties faced by you in protecting your interests. See also “—Risks Related to the ADSs—Certain judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable.” for risks associated with investing in us as a Cayman Islands company.
 
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We may rely on dividends paid by our PRC subsidiary to fund cash and financing requirements. Any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiary to pay dividends to us could have a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business and to pay dividends to holders of the ADSs and our ordinary shares.
We are a holding company, and we may rely on dividends to be paid by our PRC subsidiary for our cash and financing requirements, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash distributions to the holders of the ADSs and our ordinary shares and service any debt we may incur. If our PRC subsidiary incurs debt on its own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict its ability to pay dividends or make other distributions to us.
Any restriction on currency exchange may limit the ability of our PRC subsidiary to use its Renminbi revenues to pay dividends to us. The PRC government may continue to strengthen its capital controls and our PRC subsidiary’s dividends and other distributions may be subject to tightened scrutiny in the future. Any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiary to pay dividends or make other distributions to us could materially and adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our business, pay dividends, or otherwise fund and conduct our business.
Under PRC laws and regulations, wholly foreign-owned enterprises in the PRC, such as Beijing Lexuebang, may pay dividends only out of their accumulated profits as determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. In addition, a wholly foreign-owned enterprise is required to set aside at least 10% of its after-tax profits each year, after making up previous years’ accumulated losses, if any, to fund certain statutory reserve funds, until the aggregate amount of such a fund reaches 50% of its registered capital. At the discretion of the board of directors of the wholly foreign-owned enterprise, it may allocate a portion of its after-tax profits based on PRC accounting standards to staff welfare and bonus funds. These reserve funds and staff welfare and bonus funds are not distributable as cash dividends. Any limitation on the ability of our wholly-owned PRC subsidiary to pay dividends or make other distributions to us could materially and adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our business, pay dividends, or otherwise fund and conduct our business.
Risks Related to Doing Business in China
Changes in China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business and operations.
Our revenues are all sourced from China. Accordingly, our results of operations, financial condition and prospects are influenced by economic, political and legal developments in China. Economic reforms begun in the late 1970s have resulted in significant economic growth. However, any economic reform policies or measures in China may from time to time be modified or revised. China’s economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including with respect to the amount of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth in the past 30 years, growth has been uneven across different regions and among different economic sectors.
The PRC government exercises significant control over China’s economic growth through strategically allocating resources, controlling the payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. Although the PRC economy has grown significantly in the past decade, that growth may not continue, as evidenced by the slowing of the growth of the PRC economy since 2012. Any adverse changes in economic conditions in China, in the policies of the PRC government or in the laws and regulations in China could have a material adverse effect on the overall economic growth of China. Such developments could adversely affect our business and results of operations, lead to reduction in demand for our services and adversely affect our competitive position.
Uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system could adversely affect us.
The PRC legal system is based on written statutes and court decisions have limited precedential value. The PRC legal system is evolving rapidly, and the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules may contain inconsistencies and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involves uncertainties.
 
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From time to time, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce our legal rights. However, since PRC judicial and administrative authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory and contractual terms, it may be more difficult to predict the outcome of a judicial or administrative proceeding than in more developed legal systems. Furthermore, the PRC legal system is based, in part, on government policies and internal rules, some of which are not published in a timely manner, or at all, but which may have retroactive effect. As a result, we may not always be aware of any potential violation of these policies and rules. Such unpredictability towards our contractual, property (including intellectual property) and procedural rights could adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations.
Litigation and negative publicity surrounding China-based companies listed in the U.S. may result in increased regulatory scrutiny of us and negatively impact the trading price of the ADSs and could have a material adverse effect upon our business, including our results of operations, financial condition, cash flows and prospects.
We believe that litigation and negative publicity surrounding companies with operations in China that are listed in the U.S. have negatively impacted stock prices for such companies. Various equity-based research organizations have published reports on China-based companies, including us, after examining, among other things, their corporate governance practices, related party transactions, sales practices and financial statements that have led to special investigations and stock suspensions on national exchanges. Any similar scrutiny of us, regardless of its lack of merit, could result in a diversion of management resources and energy, potential costs to defend ourselves against rumors, decreases and volatility in the ADS trading price, and increased directors and officers insurance premiums and could have a material adverse effect upon our business, including our results of operations, financial condition, cash flows and prospects.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.
The conversion of Renminbi into foreign currencies, including U.S. dollars, is based on rates set by the People’s Bank of China. The Renminbi has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. The value of Renminbi against the U.S. dollar and other currencies is affected by changes in China’s political and economic conditions and by China’s foreign exchange policies, among other things. We cannot assure you that Renminbi will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the future. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between Renminbi and the U.S. dollar in the future.
Any significant appreciation or depreciation of Renminbi may materially and adversely affect our revenues, earnings and financial position, and the value of, and any dividends payable on, our ADSs in U.S. dollars. For example, to the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars into Renminbi for our operations, appreciation of the RMB against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the Renminbi amount we would receive from the conversion. Conversely, if we decide to convert our Renminbi into U.S. dollars for the purpose of making payments for dividends on our ordinary shares or the ADSs or for other business purposes, appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the Renminbi would have a negative effect on the U.S. dollar amount available to us.
We have started to enter into hedging transactions in an effort to reduce our exposure to foreign currency exchange risk since January 2021. However, the availability and effectiveness of these hedges may be limited and we may not be able to adequately hedge our exposure or at all. In addition, our currency exchange losses may be magnified by PRC exchange control regulations that restrict our ability to convert Renminbi into foreign currency. As a result, fluctuations in exchange rates may have a material adverse effect on your investment.
Governmental control of currency conversion may limit our ability to utilize our revenues effectively and affect the value of your investment.
The PRC government imposes controls on the convertibility of the Renminbi into foreign currencies and, in certain cases, the remittance of currency out of China. We receive substantially all of our revenues in Renminbi. Under our current corporate structure, our Cayman Islands holding company may rely on dividend payments from our PRC subsidiary to fund any cash and financing requirements we may have. Under existing PRC foreign exchange regulations, payments of current account items, including profit distributions, interest payments and trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, can be made in foreign currencies without prior approval of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, by complying with certain procedural requirements. Specifically, under the existing exchange restrictions, without prior approval of SAFE, cash generated from the operations of our PRC subsidiary in China may be used to pay dividends to our company. However, approval from or registration with appropriate government authorities is required where Renminbi is to be converted into foreign currency and remitted out of China to pay capital expenses such as the repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies. As a result, we need to obtain SAFE approval to use cash generated from the operations of our PRC subsidiary and consolidated variable interest entity to pay off their respective debt in a currency other than Renminbi owed to entities outside China, or to make other capital expenditure payments outside China in a currency other than Renminbi.
 
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In light of the flood of capital outflows of China in 2016 due to the weakening Renminbi, the PRC government has imposed more restrictive foreign exchange policies and stepped up scrutiny of major outbound capital movement including overseas direct investment. More restrictions and substantial vetting process are put in place by SAFE to regulate cross-border transactions falling under the capital account. If any of our shareholders regulated by such policies fails to satisfy the applicable overseas direct investment filing or approval requirement timely or at all, it may be subject to penalties from the relevant PRC authorities. The PRC government may at its discretion further restrict access in the future to foreign currencies for current account transactions. If the foreign exchange control system prevents us from obtaining sufficient foreign currencies to satisfy our foreign currency demands, we may not be able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders, including holders of the ADSs.
If our preferential tax treatments are revoked or become unavailable or if the calculation of our tax liability is successfully challenged by the PRC tax authorities, we may be required to pay tax, interest and penalties in excess of our tax provisions.
Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules, the statutory enterprise income tax rate is 25%, but certain “high and new technology enterprises,” or HNTE, are qualified for a preferential enterprise income tax rate of 15% subject to certain qualification criteria. Currently, Beijing BaiJia and Beijing GaoTuYunJi Education Technology Co., Ltd. enjoy a preferential enterprise income tax rate of 15% as they are recognized as HNTEs by relevant PRC governmental authorities. The qualification as an HNTE is subject to annual evaluation and a three-year review by the relevant PRC governmental authorities. In addition, an enterprise that qualifies as a “software enterprise” established after January 1, 2011, or a software enterprise, is exempt from enterprise income tax for two years beginning in the enterprise’s first profitable year followed by a tax rate of 12.5% for the succeeding three years. Beijing Lexuebang obtained the Software Enterprise certificate and adopted exemption from enterprise income tax for 2019 and 2020, and will be subject to a tax rate of 12.5% from 2021 to 2023. Wuhan Yuexuebang has obtained the Software Enterprise certificate and adopted exemption from enterprise income tax for 2020 and 2021, and will be subject to a tax rate of 12.5% from 2022 to 2024 upon annual tax filings. Relatedly, the value-added tax reductions and/or exemptions that were available to our PRC entities in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic will cease in 2021. If these entities fail to maintain their respective statuses, experiences any increase in the enterprise income tax rate, or faces any discontinuation, retroactive or future reduction or refund of any of the preferential tax treatments currently enjoyed, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The M&A Rules and certain other PRC regulations establish complex procedures for some acquisitions of Chinese companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions in China.
The Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Companies by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, adopted by six PRC regulatory agencies in 2006 and amended in 2009, and some other regulations and rules concerning mergers and acquisitions established additional procedures and requirements that could make merger and acquisition activities by foreign investors more time consuming and complex, including requirements in some instances that the Ministry of Commerce, or the MOC, be notified in advance of any change-of-control transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise. Moreover, the Anti-Monopoly Law requires that the MOC shall be notified in advance of any concentration of undertaking if certain thresholds are triggered. In addition, the security review rules issued by the MOC that became effective in September 2011 specify that mergers and acquisitions by foreign investors that raise “national defense and security” concerns and mergers and acquisitions through which foreign investors may acquire de facto control over domestic enterprises that raise “national security” concerns are subject to strict review by the MOC, and the rules prohibit any activities attempting to bypass a security review, including by structuring the transaction through a proxy or contractual control arrangement. In the future, we may grow our business by acquiring complementary businesses. Complying with the requirements of the above-mentioned regulations and other relevant rules to complete such transactions could be time consuming, and any required approval processes, including obtaining approval from the MOC or its local counterparts may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions, which could affect our ability to expand our business or maintain our market share.
 
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PRC regulation of loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies and governmental control of currency conversion may delay or prevent us from using the proceeds of our initial public offering to make loans to or make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiary and consolidated variable interest entity, which could materially and adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.
We are an offshore holding company conducting our operations in China through our PRC subsidiary, our consolidated variable entity and its subsidiaries. We may make loans to our PRC subsidiary and consolidated variable entity and its subsidiaries subject to the approval from or registration with governmental authorities and limitation on amount, or we may make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiary. Any loans to our PRC subsidiary, which are treated as foreign-invested enterprises, or FIEs, under PRC law, are subject to applicable foreign exchange loan registrations. In addition, an FIE shall use its capital pursuant to the principle of authenticity and self-use within its business scope. The capital of an FIE shall not be used for the following purposes: (i) directly or indirectly for payment beyond the business scope of such FIE or payment prohibited by relevant laws and regulations; (ii) directly or indirectly for investment in securities unless otherwise provided by relevant laws and regulations; (iii) the granting of loans to non-affiliated enterprises, except where it is expressly permitted in the business scope; and (iv) paying the expenses related to the construction or purchase of real estate that is not for self-use (except for the real estate enterprises). Due to the restrictions imposed on loans in foreign currencies extended to PRC domestic companies, we are not likely to make such loans to our consolidated variable interest entity, which is a PRC domestic company. Further, we are not likely to finance the activities of our consolidated variable interest entity by means of capital contributions due to regulatory restrictions relating to foreign investment in PRC domestic enterprises engaged in value-added telecommunication services and certain other businesses.
SAFE promulgated the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Reforming the Administration of Foreign Exchange Settlement of Capital of Foreign-invested Enterprises, or SAFE Circular 19, effective June 2015, in replacement of the Circular on the Relevant Operating Issues Concerning the Improvement of the Administration of the Payment and Settlement of Foreign Currency Capital of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, the Notice from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Relevant Issues Concerning Strengthening the Administration of Foreign Exchange Businesses, and the Circular on Further Clarification and Regulation of the Issues Concerning the Administration of Certain Capital Account Foreign Exchange Businesses. According to SAFE Circular 19, the flow and use of the RMB capital converted from foreign currency-denominated registered capital of a foreign-invested company is regulated such that RMB capital may not be used for the issuance of RMB entrusted loans, the repayment of inter-enterprise loans or the repayment of banks loans that have been transferred to a third-party. Although SAFE Circular 19 allows RMB capital converted from foreign currency-denominated registered capital of a foreign-invested enterprise to be used for equity investments within China, it also reiterates the principle that RMB converted from the foreign currency-denominated capital of a foreign-invested company may not be directly or indirectly used for purposes beyond its business scope. Thus, it is unclear whether SAFE will permit such capital to be used for equity investments in China in actual practice. SAFE promulgated the Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Reforming and Standardizing the Foreign Exchange Settlement Management Policy of Capital Account, or SAFE Circular 16, effective on June 9, 2016, which reiterates some of the rules set forth in SAFE Circular 19, but changes the prohibition against using RMB capital converted from foreign currency-denominated registered capital of a foreign-invested company to issue RMB entrusted loans to a prohibition against using such capital to issue loans to non-associated enterprises. Violations of SAFE Circular 19 and SAFE Circular 16 could result in administrative penalties. SAFE Circular 19 and SAFE Circular 16 may significantly limit our ability to transfer any foreign currency we hold, including the net proceeds from our initial public offering, to our PRC subsidiary, which may adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business in China. On October 23, 2019, the SAFE promulgated the Notice for Further Advancing the Facilitation of Cross-border Trade and Investment, or the SAFE Circular 28, which, among other things, allows all foreign-invested companies to use Renminbi converted from foreign currency-denominated capital for equity investments in China, as long as the equity investment is genuine, does not violate applicable laws, and complies with the negative list on foreign investment. On December 31, 2020, the People’s Bank of China, SAFE and other government authorities jointly issued the Circular on Further Optimizing Cross-border Renminbi Policies to Support the Stabilization of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, or the Circular 330, which, among other things, reiterates the above provisions in SAFE Circular 28. However, since the SAFE Circular 28 and Circular 330 are relatively new, it is unclear how SAFE and other government authorities as well as competent banks will carry this out in practice.
In light of the various requirements imposed by PRC regulations on loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies, we cannot assure you that we will be able to complete the necessary government registrations or obtain the necessary government approvals on a timely basis, if at all, with respect to future loans by us to our PRC subsidiary or with respect to future capital contributions by us to our PRC subsidiary. If we fail to complete such registrations or obtain such approvals, our ability to use the proceeds we received from our initial public offering and to capitalize or otherwise fund our PRC operations may be negatively affected, which could materially and adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.
 
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PRC regulations relating to the establishment of offshore special purpose companies by PRC residents may subject our PRC resident beneficial owners or our PRC subsidiary to liability or penalties, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiary, limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to increase its registered capital or distribute profits to us, or may otherwise adversely affect us.
The SAFE promulgated the Circular on Relevant Issues Relating to Domestic Resident’s Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, in July 2014 that requires PRC residents or entities to register with SAFE or its local branch in connection with their establishment or control of an offshore entity established for the purpose of overseas investment or financing with such PRC residents or entities’ legally owned assets or equity interests in domestic enterprises or offshore assets or interests. On February 13, 2015, SAFE issued SAFE Circular No. 13, which took effect on June 1, 2015, pursuant to which, the power to accept SAFE registration was delegated from local SAFE to local qualified banks where the assets or interest in the domestic entity was located. In addition, such PRC residents or entities must update their SAFE registrations when the offshore special purpose vehicle undergoes material events relating to any change of basic information (including change of such PRC citizens or residents, name and operation term), increases or decreases in investment amount, transfers or exchanges of shares, or mergers or divisions.
If our shareholders who are PRC residents or entities do not complete their registration with the local SAFE branches, our PRC subsidiary may be prohibited from distributing its profits and proceeds from any reduction in capital, share transfer or liquidation to us, and we may be restricted in our ability to contribute additional capital to our PRC subsidiary. Moreover, failure to comply with the SAFE registration described above could result in liability under PRC laws for evasion of applicable foreign exchange restrictions.
We have used our best efforts to notify PRC residents or entities who directly or indirectly hold shares in our Cayman Islands holding company and who are known to us as being PRC residents to complete the foreign exchange registrations. However, we may not be informed of the identities of all the PRC residents or entities holding direct or indirect interest in our company, nor can we compel our beneficial owners to comply with SAFE registration requirements. We cannot assure you that all shareholders or beneficial owners of ours who are PRC residents or entities, including the beneficiaries of the trust schemes directly or indirectly holding interests in our Cayman Islands holding company, have complied with, and will in the future make, obtain or update any applicable registrations or approvals required by, SAFE regulations. Failure by such shareholders or beneficial owners to comply with SAFE regulations, or failure by us to amend the foreign exchange registrations of our PRC subsidiary, could subject us to fines or legal sanctions, restrict our overseas or cross-border investment activities, limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to make distributions or pay dividends to us or affect our ownership structure, which could adversely affect our business and prospects.
Failure to comply with PRC regulations regarding the registration requirements for employee stock ownership plans or share option plans may subject the PRC plan participants or us to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions.
Pursuant to SAFE Circular 37, PRC residents who participate in share incentive plans in overseas non-publicly-listed companies due to their position as director, senior management or employees of the PRC subsidiaries of the overseas companies may submit applications to SAFE or its local branches for the foreign exchange registration with respect to offshore special purpose companies. Our directors, executive officers and other employees who are PRC residents and who have been granted share-based awards may follow SAFE Circular 37 to apply for the foreign exchange registration before our company becomes an overseas listed company. In February 2012, SAFE promulgated the Notices on Issues Concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Stock Incentive Plans of Overseas Publicly-Listed Companies, or SAFE Circular 7. Under SAFE Circular 7 and other relevant rules and regulations, PRC residents who participate in stock incentive plan in an overseas publicly-listed company are required to register with SAFE or its local branches and complete certain other procedures. Participants of a stock incentive plan who are PRC residents must retain a qualified PRC agent, which could be a PRC subsidiary of such overseas publicly listed company or another qualified institution selected by such PRC subsidiary, to conduct the SAFE registration and other procedures with respect to the stock incentive plan on behalf of its participants. Such participants must also retain an overseas entrusted institution to handle matters in connection with their exercise of share-based awards, the purchase and sale of corresponding shares or interests and fund transfers. In addition, the PRC agent is required to amend the SAFE registration with respect to the stock incentive plan if there is any material change to the stock incentive plan, the PRC agent or the overseas entrusted institution or other material changes. We and our PRC employees who have been granted share-based awards are subject to SAFE Circular 7 and other relevant rules and regulations. Failure of our PRC share-based award holders to complete their SAFE registrations may subject these PRC residents to fines and legal sanctions and may also limit our ability to contribute additional capital into our PRC subsidiary, limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to distribute dividends to us, or otherwise materially adversely affect our business.
 
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If we are classified as a PRC resident enterprise for PRC income tax purposes, such classification could result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our non-PRC shareholders or the ADS holders.
Under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law and its implementation rules, an enterprise established outside of the PRC with its “de facto management body” within the PRC is considered a “resident enterprise” and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its global income at the rate of 25%. The implementation rules define the term “de facto management body” as the body that exercises full and substantial control and overall management over the business, productions, personnel, accounts and properties of an enterprise. The State Administration of Taxation issued a circular in April 2009, known as SAT Circular 82 and as last amended in December 2017, which provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a PRC-controlled enterprise that is incorporated offshore is located in China. Although this circular only applies to offshore enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC enterprise groups, not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreigners, the criteria set forth in the circular may reflect the State Administration of Taxation’s general position on how the “de facto management body” text should be applied in determining the tax resident status of all offshore enterprises. According to SAT Circular 82, an offshore incorporated enterprise controlled by a PRC enterprise or a PRC enterprise group will be regarded as a PRC tax resident by virtue of having its “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its global income only if all of the following conditions are met: (i) the primary location of the day-to-day operational management is in the PRC; (ii) decisions relating to the enterprise’s financial and human resource matters are made or are subject to approval by organizations or personnel in the PRC; (iii) the enterprise’s primary assets, accounting books and records, company seals, and board and shareholder resolutions, are located or maintained in the PRC; and (iv) at least 50% of voting board members or senior executives habitually reside in the PRC.
We believe none of our entities outside of China is a PRC resident enterprise for PRC tax purposes. However, the tax resident status of an enterprise is subject to determination by the PRC tax authorities and uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term “de facto management body.” If the PRC tax authorities determine that GSX Techedu Inc. is a PRC resident enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes, we may be required to withhold a 10% withholding tax from dividends we pay to our shareholders that are non-resident enterprises, including the holders of the ADSs. In addition, non-resident enterprise shareholders (including the ADS holders) may be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 10% on gains realized on the sale or other disposition of ADSs or ordinary shares at a rate of 10%, if such income is treated as sourced from within the PRC. Furthermore, if PRC tax authorities determine that we are a PRC resident enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes, dividends paid to our non-PRC individual shareholders (including the ADS holders) and any gain realized on the transfer of ADSs or ordinary shares by such shareholders may be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 20% (which, in the case of dividends, may be withheld at source by us), if such gains are deemed to be from PRC sources. These rates may be reduced by an applicable tax treaty, but it is unclear whether non-PRC shareholders of GSX Techedu Inc. would be able to claim the benefits of any tax treaties between their country of tax residence and the PRC in the event that GSX Techedu Inc. is treated as a PRC resident enterprise. Any such tax may reduce the returns on your investment in the ADSs.
We face uncertainties with respect to indirect transfer of equity interests in PRC resident enterprises by their non-PRC holding companies.
We face uncertainties regarding the reporting on and consequences of previous private equity financing transactions involving the transfer and exchange of shares in our company by non-resident investors. In February 2015, the State Administration of Taxation, or SAT, issued the Bulletin on Issues of Enterprise Income Tax on Indirect Transfers of Assets by Non-PRC Resident Enterprises or Bulletin 7. Pursuant to Bulletin 7, an ‘‘indirect transfer’’ of PRC assets, including a transfer of equity interests in an unlisted non-PRC holding company of a PRC resident enterprise, by non-PRC resident enterprises may be re-characterized and treated as a direct transfer of the underlying PRC assets, if such arrangement does not have a reasonable commercial purpose and was established for the purpose of avoiding payment of PRC enterprise income tax. As a result, gains derived from such indirect transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax, and the transferee or other person who is obligated to pay for the transfer is obligated to withhold the applicable taxes, currently at a rate of 10% for the transfer of equity interests in a PRC resident enterprise. On October 17, 2017, the SAT issued the Announcement of the State Administration of Taxation on Issues Concerning the Withholding of Non-resident Enterprise Income Tax at Source, or Bulletin 37, which came into effect on December 1, 2017, as amended. The Bulletin 37 further clarifies the practice and procedure of the withholding of nonresident enterprise income tax.
 
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There is uncertainty as to the application of Bulletin 37 or previous rules under Bulletin 7. We face uncertainties on the reporting and consequences of private equity financing transactions, share exchanges or other transactions involving the transfer of shares in our company by investors that are non-PRC resident enterprises. Our company may be subject to filing obligations or taxes if our company is the transferor in such transactions, and may be subject to withholding obligations if our company is the transferee in such transactions, under Bulletin 37 and Bulletin 7.
The custodians or authorized users of our controlling non-tangible assets, including chops and seals, may fail to fulfill their responsibilities, or misappropriate or misuse these assets.
Under the PRC law, legal documents for corporate transactions, including agreements and contracts are executed using the chop or seal of the signing entity or with the signature of a legal representative whose designation is registered and filed with relevant PRC market regulation administrative authorities. In order to secure the use of our chops and seals, we have established internal control procedures and rules for using these chops and seals. In any event that the chops and seals are intended to be used, the responsible personnel will need to seek approval by authorized employees in accordance with our internal control procedures and rules. In addition, in order to maintain the physical security of our chops, we generally have them stored in secured locations accessible only to authorized employees. Although we monitor such authorized employees, the procedures may not be sufficient to prevent all instances of abuse or negligence. There is a risk that our employees may abuse their authority, for example, by entering into a contract not approved by us or seeking to gain control of one of our subsidiaries or our VIE or their subsidiaries. If any employee obtains, misuses or misappropriates our chops and seals or other controlling non-tangible assets for whatever reason, we could experience disruption to our normal business operations. We may have to take corporate or legal action, which could involve significant time and resources to resolve and divert management from our operations.
The enforcement of the PRC Labor Contract Law and other labor-related regulations in the PRC may adversely affect our business and results of operations.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress enacted the Labor Contract Law in 2008, and amended it on December 28, 2012. The Labor Contract Law introduced specific provisions related to fixed-term employment contracts, part-time employment, probationary periods, consultation with labor unions and employee assemblies, employment without a written contract, dismissal of employees, severance, and collective bargaining to enhance previous PRC labor laws. Under the Labor Contract Law, an employer is obligated to sign an unlimited-term labor contract with any employee who has worked for the employer for ten consecutive years. Further, if an employee requests or agrees to renew a fixed-term labor contract that has already been entered into twice consecutively, the resulting contract, with certain exceptions, must have an unlimited term, subject to certain exceptions. With certain exceptions, an employer must pay severance to an employee where a labor contract is terminated or expires. In addition, the PRC governmental authorities have continued to introduce various new labor-related regulations since the effectiveness of the Labor Contract Law.
Under the PRC Social Insurance Law and the Administrative Measures on Housing Fund, employees are required to participate in pension insurance, work-related injury insurance, medical insurance, unemployment insurance, maternity insurance, and housing funds and employers are required, together with their employees or separately, to pay the social insurance premiums and housing funds for their employees. If we fail to make adequate social insurance and housing fund contributions, we may be subject to fines and legal sanctions, and our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Government Regulations—Regulation Related to Employment, Social Insurance and Housing Fund.”
These laws designed to enhance labor protection tend to increase our labor costs. In addition, as the interpretation and implementation of these regulations are still evolving, our employment practices may not be at all times be deemed in compliance with the regulations. As a result, we could be subject to penalties or incur significant liabilities in connection with labor disputes or investigations.
Risks Related to the ADSs
The trading price of the ADSs is likely to be volatile, which could result in substantial losses to investors.
The trading price of our ADSs has been volatile since our ADSs started to trade on the New York Stock Exchange on June 6, 2019. The trading price of our ADSs could fluctuate widely due to multiple factors, some of which are beyond our control. This may happen because of broad market and industry factors, including the performance and fluctuation of the market prices of other companies with business operations located mainly in China that have listed their securities in the United States. In addition to market and industry factors, the price and trading volume for the ADSs may be highly volatile for factors specific to our own operations, including the following:
 
   
actual or anticipated variations in our revenues, earnings, cash flow and data related to our student base or student engagement;
 
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announcements of new investments, acquisitions, strategic partnerships or joint ventures by us or our competitors;
 
   
announcements of new product and service offerings, solutions and expansions by us or our competitors;
 
   
changes in financial estimates by securities analysts;
 
   
detrimental adverse publicity about us, our products and services or our industry;
 
   
additions or departures of key personnel;
 
   
release of lock-up or other transfer restrictions on our outstanding equity securities or sales of additional equity securities; and
 
   
actual or potential litigation or regulatory investigations.
Any of these factors may result in large and sudden changes in the volume and price at which the ADSs will trade. Furthermore, the stock market in general has experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of companies like us. These broad market and industry fluctuations may adversely affect the market price of our ADSs. Volatility or a lack of positive performance in our ADS price may also adversely affect our ability to retain key employees, most of whom have been granted equity incentives.
In the past, shareholders of public companies have often brought securities class action suits against those companies following periods of instability in the market price of their securities. We have been named as a defendant in a putative shareholder class action lawsuit which could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit, which could harm our results of operations. Please see “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings” for description of the putative shareholder class action lawsuit. Any such class action suit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they adversely change their recommendations regarding the ADSs, the market price for the ADSs and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for the ADSs will be influenced by research or reports that industry or securities analysts publish about our business. If one or more analysts who cover us downgrade the ADSs, the market price for the ADSs would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease to cover us or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause the market price or trading volume for the ADSs to decline.
The sale or perceived availability for sale of substantial amounts of the ADSs could adversely affect their market price.
Sales of substantial amounts of the ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could adversely affect the market price of the ADSs and could materially impair our ability to raise capital through equity offerings in the future. The ADSs sold in our initial public offering and follow-on offering are freely tradable without restriction or further registration under the Securities Act, and shares held by our existing shareholders may also be sold in the public market in the future subject to the restrictions in Rule 144 and Rule 701 under the Securities Act. We cannot predict what effect, if any, market sales of securities held by our significant shareholders or any other shareholder or the availability of these securities for future sale will have on the market price of the ADSs.
 
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Our dual-class voting structure will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.
We have a dual-class share structure such that our ordinary shares consist of Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. (with certain shares remaining undesignated, with power for our directors to designate and issue such classes of shares as they think fit). Holders of Class A ordinary shares are entitled to one vote per share, while holders of Class B ordinary shares are entitled to ten votes per share. Each Class B ordinary share is convertible into one Class A ordinary share at any time by the holder thereof, while Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares under any circumstances.
Mr. Larry Xiangdong Chen, our founder, chairman of board of directors and chief executive officer, beneficially owns all of our issued Class B ordinary shares. As of February 28, 2021, these Class B ordinary shares constitute 43.0% of our total issued and outstanding share capital and 88.3% of the aggregate voting power of our total issued and outstanding share capital due to the disparate voting powers associated with our dual-class share structure. As a result of the dual-class share structure and the concentration of ownership, holders of Class B ordinary shares have considerable influence over matters such as decisions regarding mergers and consolidations, election of directors and other significant corporate actions. Such holders may take actions that are not in the best interest of us or our other shareholders. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could have the effect of depriving our other shareholders of the opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and may reduce the price of the ADSs. This concentrated control will limit your ability to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transactions that holders of Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.
The dual-class structure of our ordinary shares may adversely affect the trading market for our ADSs.
Certain shareholder advisory firms have announced changes to their eligibility criteria for inclusion of shares of public companies on certain indices, including the S&P 500, to exclude companies with multiple classes of shares and companies whose public shareholders hold no more than 5% of total voting power from being added to such indices. In addition, several shareholder advisory firms have announced their opposition to the use of multiple class structures. As a result, the dual-class structure of our ordinary shares may prevent the inclusion of our ADSs representing Class A ordinary shares in such indices and may cause shareholder advisory firms to publish negative commentary about our corporate governance practices or otherwise seek to cause us to change our capital structure. Any such exclusion from indices could result in a less active trading market for our ADSs. Any actions or publications by shareholder advisory firms critical of our corporate governance practices or capital structure could also adversely affect the value of our ADSs.
Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on price appreciation of the ADSs for return on your investment.
We currently intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and growth of our business. As a result, we do not expect to pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Therefore, you should not rely on an investment in the ADSs as a source for any future dividend income.
Our board of directors has complete discretion as to whether to distribute dividends, subject to certain restrictions under Cayman Islands law, namely that our company may only pay dividends out of profits or share premium account, and provided always that in no circumstances may a dividend be paid if this would result in our company being unable to pay its debts as they fall due in the ordinary course of business. In addition, our shareholders may by ordinary resolution declare a dividend, but no dividend may exceed the amount recommended by our board of directors. Even if our board of directors decides to declare and pay dividends, the timing, amount and form of future dividends, if any, will depend on our future results of operations and cash flow, our capital requirements and surplus, the amount of distributions, if any, received by us from our subsidiaries, our financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Accordingly, the return on your investment in the ADSs will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of the ADSs. There is no guarantee that the ADSs will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the ADSs. You may not realize a return on your investment in the ADSs and you may even lose your entire investment in the ADSs.
 
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Our memorandum and articles of association contain anti-takeover provisions that could have a material adverse effect on the rights of holders of our ordinary shares and the ADSs.
Our memorandum and articles of association contain certain provisions to limit the ability of others to acquire control of our company or cause us to engage in change-of-control transactions. These provisions could have the effect of depriving our shareholders of an opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over prevailing market prices by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of our company in a tender offer or similar transaction. Our board of directors has the authority, without further action by our shareholders, to issue preferred shares in one or more series and to fix their designations, powers, preferences, privileges, and relative participating, optional or special rights and the qualifications, limitations or restrictions, including dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption and liquidation preferences, any or all of which may be greater than the rights associated with our ordinary shares, in the form of ADS or otherwise. Preferred shares could be issued quickly with terms calculated to delay or prevent a change in control of our company or make removal of management more difficult. If our board of directors decides to issue preferred shares, the price of the ADSs may fall and the voting and other rights of the holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs may be materially and adversely affected.
You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law.
We are an exempted company incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Our corporate affairs are governed by our memorandum and articles of association, the Companies Act (As Revised) of the Cayman Islands and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against our directors, actions by our minority shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from the common law of England, the decisions of whose courts are of persuasive authority, but are not binding, on a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedent in some jurisdictions in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws than the United States. Some U.S. states, such as Delaware, have more fully developed and judicially interpreted bodies of corporate law than the Cayman Islands. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States.
Shareholders of Cayman Islands exempted companies like us have no general rights under Cayman Islands law to inspect corporate records (other than the memorandum and articles of association and any special resolutions passed by such companies, and the registers of mortgages and charges of such companies) or to obtain copies of lists of shareholders of these companies. Our directors have discretion under our articles of association to determine whether or not, and under what conditions, our corporate records may be inspected by our shareholders, but are not obliged to make them available to our shareholders. This may make it more difficult for you to obtain the information needed to establish any facts necessary for a shareholder motion or to solicit proxies from other shareholders in connection with a proxy contest.
Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, differ significantly from requirements for companies incorporated in other jurisdictions such as the United States. Currently, we rely on home country practice with respect to annual meeting of shareholders and did not hold one in 2020. To the extent we choose to follow additional home country practices in the future, our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would under rules and regulations applicable to U.S. domestic issuers.
As a result of all of the above, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions taken by our management, members of our board of directors or our controlling shareholders than they would as public shareholders of a company incorporated in the United States.
Certain judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable.
We are a Cayman Islands company and substantially all of our assets are located outside of the United States. All of our current operations are conducted in China. In addition, all of our current directors and officers are nationals and residents of countries other than the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the United States in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the U.S. federal securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of China may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers.
 
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The voting rights of holders of ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement, and you may not be able to exercise your right to direct how the Class A ordinary shares which are represented by your ADSs are voted.
Holders of ADSs do not have the same rights as our registered shareholders. As a holder of the ADSs, you will not have any direct right to attend general meetings of our shareholders or to cast any votes at such meetings. You will only be able to exercise the voting rights which are carried by the Class A ordinary shares represented by your ADSs indirectly by giving voting instructions to the depositary in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Under the deposit agreement, you may vote only by giving voting instructions to the depositary. If we instruct the depositary to ask for your instructions, then upon receipt of your voting instructions, the depositary will try, as far as is practicable, to vote the underlying Class A ordinary shares which are represented by your ADSs in accordance with your instructions. If we do not instruct the depositary to ask for your instructions, the depositary may still vote in accordance with instructions you give, but it is not required to do so. You will not be able to directly exercise your right to vote with respect to the underlying Class A ordinary shares represented by your ADSs unless you withdraw the shares and become the registered holder of such shares prior to the record date for the general meeting. Under our currently effective third amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, the minimum notice period required to be given by our company to our registered shareholders to convene a general meeting will be ten days. When a general meeting is convened, you may not receive sufficient advance notice of the meeting to withdraw the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs and become the registered holder of such shares to allow you to attend the general meeting and to vote directly with respect to any specific matter or resolution to be considered and voted upon at the general meeting. In addition, under our third amended and restated memorandum and articles of association, for the purposes of determining those shareholders who are entitled to attend and vote at any general meeting, our directors may close our register of members and/or fix in advance a record date for such meeting, and such closure of our register of members or the setting of such a record date may prevent you from withdrawing the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs and becoming the registered holder of such shares prior to the record date, so that you would not be able to attend the general meeting or to vote directly. If we ask for your instructions, the depositary will notify you of the upcoming vote and will arrange to deliver our voting materials to you. We have agreed to give the depositary at least 30 days’ prior notice of shareholder meetings. Nevertheless, we cannot assure you that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote the underlying Class A ordinary shares represented by your ADSs. In addition, the depositary and its agents are not responsible for failing to carry out voting instructions or for their manner of carrying out your voting instructions. This means that you may not be able to exercise your right to direct how the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs are voted and you may have no legal remedy if the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs are not voted as you requested.
You may experience dilution of your holdings due to inability to participate in rights offerings.
We may, from time to time, distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire securities. Under the deposit agreement, the depositary will not distribute rights to holders of ADSs unless the distribution and sale of rights and the securities to which these rights relate are either exempt from registration under the Securities Act with respect to all holders of ADSs, or are registered under the provisions of the Securities Act. The depositary may, but is not required to, attempt to sell these undistributed rights to third parties, and may allow the rights to lapse. We may be unable to establish an exemption from registration under the Securities Act, and we are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to these rights or underlying securities or to endeavor to have a registration statement declared effective. Accordingly, holders of ADSs may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution of their holdings as a result.
You may be subject to limitations on transfer of your ADSs.
Your ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. The depositary may close its books from time to time for a number of reasons, including in connection with corporate events such as a rights offering, during which time the depositary needs to maintain an exact number of ADS holders on its books for a specified period. The depositary may also close its books in emergencies, and on weekends and public holidays. The depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of the ADSs generally when our share register or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary thinks it is advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or of any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.
 
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ADSs holders may not be entitled to a jury trial with respect to claims arising under the deposit agreement, which could result in less favorable outcomes to the plaintiff(s) in any such action.
The deposit agreement governing the ADSs representing our Class A ordinary shares provides that, subject to the depositary’s right to require a claim to be submitted to arbitration, the federal or state courts in the City of New York have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine claims arising under the deposit agreement and in that regard, to the fullest extent permitted by law, ADS holders waive the right to a jury trial of any claim they may have against us or the depositary arising out of or relating to our Class A ordinary shares, the ADSs or the deposit agreement, including any claim under the U.S. federal securities laws.
If we or the depositary opposed a jury trial demand based on the waiver, the court would determine whether the waiver was enforceable based on the facts and circumstances of that case in accordance with the applicable U.S. state and federal law. To our knowledge, the enforceability of a contractual pre-dispute jury trial waiver in connection with claims arising under the federal securities laws has not been finally adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court. However, we believe that a contractual pre-dispute jury trial waiver provision is generally enforceable, including under the laws of the State of New York, which govern the deposit agreement. In determining whether to enforce a contractual pre-dispute jury trial waiver provision, courts will generally consider whether a party knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived the right to a jury trial. We believe that this is the case with respect to the deposit agreement and the ADSs. It is advisable that you consult legal counsel regarding the jury waiver provision before investing in the ADSs.
If you or any other holders or beneficial owners of ADSs bring a claim against us or the depositary in connection with matters arising under the deposit agreement or the ADSs, including claims under U.S. federal securities laws, you or such other holder or beneficial owner may not be entitled to a jury trial with respect to such claims, which may have the effect of limiting and discouraging lawsuits against us and/or the depositary. If a lawsuit is brought against us and/or the depositary under the deposit agreement, it may be heard only by a judge or justice of the applicable trial court, which would be conducted according to different civil procedures and may result in different outcomes than a trial by jury would have had, including results that could be less favorable to the plaintiff(s) in any such action.
Nevertheless, if this jury trial waiver provision is not enforced, to the extent a court action proceeds, it would proceed under the terms of the deposit agreement with a jury trial. No condition, stipulation or provision of the deposit agreement or ADSs serves as a waiver by any holder or beneficial owner of ADSs or by us or the depositary of compliance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder.
We are a foreign private issuer within the meaning of the rules under the Exchange Act, and as such we are exempt from certain provisions applicable to United States domestic public companies.
Because we are a foreign private issuer under the Exchange Act, we are exempt from certain provisions of the securities rules and regulations in the United States that are applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, including: (i) the rules under the Exchange Act requiring the filing of quarterly reports on Form 10-Q or current reports on Form 8-K with the SEC; (ii) the sections of the Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents, or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the Exchange Act; (iii) the sections of the Exchange Act requiring insiders to file public reports of their stock ownership and trading activities and liability for insiders who profit from trades made in a short period of time; and (iv) the selective disclosure rules by issuers of material nonpublic information under Regulation FD.
We are required to file an annual report on Form 20-F within four months of the end of each fiscal year. In addition, we publish our results on a quarterly basis through press releases, distributed pursuant to the rules and regulations of the New York Stock Exchange. Press releases relating to financial results and material events are furnished to the SEC on Form 6-K. However, the information we are required to file with or furnish to the SEC will be less extensive and less timely compared to that required to be filed with the SEC by U.S. domestic issuers. As a result, you may not be afforded the same protections or information, which would be made available to you, were you investing in a U.S. domestic issuer.
 
36

As a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, we are permitted to adopt certain home country practices in relation to corporate governance matters that differ significantly from the NYSE corporate governance listing standards; these practices may afford less protection to shareholders than they would enjoy if we comply fully with the NYSE corporate governance listing standards.
As a Cayman Islands company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, we are subject to the NYSE corporate governance listing standards. However, NYSE rules permit a foreign private issuer like us to follow the corporate governance practices of its home country. Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, may differ significantly from the NYSE corporate governance listing standards. Currently, we rely on home country practice with respect to annual meeting of shareholders and did not hold one in 2020. However, if we choose to follow additional home country practices in the future, our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they would otherwise enjoy under the NYSE corporate governance listing standards applicable to U.S. domestic issuers.
We are a “controlled company” within the meaning of the New York Stock Exchange listing rules and, as a result, can rely on exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements that provide protection to shareholders of other companies.
We are a “controlled company” as defined under the New York Stock Exchange listing rules because Mr. Larry Xiangdong Chen, our founder, chairman of board of directors and chief executive officer, owns more than 50% of our total voting power. For so long as we remain a controlled company under that definition, we are permitted to elect to rely, and may rely, on certain exemptions from corporate governance rules. As a result, you may not have the same protection afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to these corporate governance requirements.
We may be a passive foreign investment company, which could result in adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. investors owning the ADSs or our ordinary shares.
A non-U.S. corporation, such as our company, will be considered a passive foreign investment company, or “PFIC,” for any taxable year if either (i) at least 75% of its gross income is passive income or (ii) at least 50% of the value of its assets (based on an average of the quarterly values of the assets during a taxable year) is attributable to assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income. Although the law in this regard is not entirely clear, we treat our consolidated VIE as being owned by us for U.S. federal income tax purposes because we control its management decisions and are entitled to substantially all of the economic benefits associated with it. As a result, we consolidate its results of operations in our consolidated U.S. GAAP financial statements. If it were determined, however, that we are not the owner of our consolidated VIE for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we would likely be treated as a PFIC for the current taxable year and any subsequent taxable year.
Assuming that we are the owner of our consolidated VIE for U.S. federal income tax purposes, and based upon our current and projected income and assets and projections as to the value of our assets, we do not believe we were a PFIC for the 2020 taxable year and we do not expect to be a PFIC for the current taxable year or the foreseeable future. However, no assurance can be given in this regard because the determination of whether we will be or become a PFIC is a factual determination made annually that will depend, in part, upon the composition of our income and assets. Fluctuations in the market price of the ADSs may cause us to be classified as a PFIC for the current or future taxable years because the value of our assets for purposes of the asset test, including the value of our goodwill and unbooked intangibles, may be determined by reference to the market price of the ADSs from time to time (which may be volatile). If our market capitalization subsequently declines, we may be or become classified as a PFIC for the current taxable year or future taxable years. Under circumstances where our revenue from activities that produce passive income significantly increases relative to our revenue from activities that produce non-passive income, or where we determine not to deploy significant amounts of cash for active purposes, our risk of becoming classified as a PFIC may substantially increase.
If we were treated as a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. investor held an ADS or an ordinary share, certain adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences could apply to the U.S. Holder. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—United States Federal Income Tax Considerations—Passive Foreign Investment Company Considerations.”
 
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ITEM 4.
INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
 
A.
History and Development of the Company
We commenced operations in June 2014 through Beijing BaiJiaHuLian Technology Co., Ltd., which was renamed as Beijing BaiJia Technology Co., Ltd. in September 2020, or Beijing BaiJia. Our holding company, BaiJiaHuLian Group Holdings Limited, was incorporated in August 2014 in the Cayman Islands to facilitate financing and offshore listing. In January 2019, we renamed our company as GSX Techedu Inc.
In August 2014, we established a wholly-owned subsidiary in Hong Kong, BaiJiaHuLian HK Holdings Limited. In January 2015, BaiJiaHuLian HK Holdings Limited established a wholly-owned subsidiary in China, Beijing Lexuebang Network Technology Co., Ltd., or Beijing Lexuebang.
In April 2015, we gained control over Beijing BaiJia through Beijing Lexuebang by entering into a series of contractual arrangements with Beijing BaiJia and its shareholders. The contractual arrangements with Beijing BaiJia were subsequently amended and restated in March 2019.
On June 6, 2019, our ADSs commenced trading on the NYSE under the symbol “GSX.” We raised from our initial public offering and from exercising the over-allotment option by the underwriters US$196.3 million in net proceeds after deducting underwriting commissions and the offering expenses payable by us.
On November 25, 2019, we completed a registered follow-on public offering by certain selling shareholders of 20,700,000 ADSs (including 2,700,000 ADSs sold from the exercise of over-allotment option) at a public offering price of US$14.00 per ADS. We did not receive any proceeds from the follow-on public offering.
In January 2020, we completed the acquisition of Zhengzhou Kaitong Kegongmao Co., Ltd. and renamed it as Zhengzhou GaoTuYunJi Education Technology Co., Ltd., which became a subsidiary of our VIE.
In May 2020, our board of directors authorized a share repurchase program, under which we may repurchase up to US$150 million worth of our shares. In the same month, we repurchased approximately 1.1 million ADSs for approximately US$39.8 million.
In December 2020, we raised US$870 million in net proceeds from the private placement of our newly issued Class A ordinary shares to certain investors. In the same month, we substantially completed the acquisition of 100% of the equity interest in Tianjin Puxin Online School Education Technology Co., Ltd., a K-12 education institution, for a total consideration of RMB37.4 million. Tianjin Puxin Online School Education Technology Co., Ltd. became a subsidiary of our VIE after the acquisition.
From January 2020 to February 2021, we established two new wholly foreign-owned enterprises in Beijing and Wuhan, respectively, one new subsidiary of Beijing Lexuebang, as well as 11 new subsidiaries of our VIE in 11 cities in China, including Wuhan, Jinan, Xi’an, Hefei, Taiyuan, Hangzhou, Nanchang, Nanjing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chengdu.
Our principal executive offices are located at Tower C, Beyondsoft Building, 7 East Zone, 10 Xibeiwang East Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100193, People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86 10 8282-6826. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at the offices of Maples Corporate Services Limited, PO Box 309, Ugland House, Grand Cayman, KY1-1104, Cayman Islands. Our agent for service of process in the United States is Puglisi & Associates, located at 850 Library Avenue, Suite 204, Newark, Delaware 19711.
SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC on
www.sec.gov
. You can also find information on our website
http://gsx.investorroom.com
. The information contained on our website is not a part of this annual report.
 
B.
Business Overview
We are a technology-driven education company with core expertise in online K-12 courses. Our K-12 courses cover all primary and secondary grades, and contributed 80.7% and 87.5%, respectively, of our total revenues in 2019 and 2020. We also offer foreign language, professional and admission courses. Our total paid course enrollments increased from 552 thousand in 2018 to 2,187 thousand in 2019 and further increased to 5,871 thousand in 2020. We adopted the online live large-class format to deliver our courses, which we believe is the most effective and scalable model to disseminate scarce high quality teaching resources to aspiring students in China.
 
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Our education excellence is backed by our high quality teachers and in-house curriculum development expertise. To create a disciplined, effective and engaging learning environment under the large-class format, we have adopted a dual-teacher system, staffing each class with an instructor and multiple tutors well trained in the relevant subjects or curriculum. We pride ourselves on our rigorous and systematic teacher selection and coaching process. As of December 31, 2020, we had 392 instructors, including 319 full-time instructors and 73 full-time exclusively contracted instructors, and 15,291 tutors.
We develop and tailor our proprietary curriculum specifically to our online live large-class format with the goal of driving students’ engagement and academic performance. We design our courses in ways to inspire students’ genuine interest and in-depth interactions, which in turn foster students’ holistic development and thus better learning results.
We strive to apply the latest technology to improve the mode of teaching delivery, student learning experience and operational efficiency. Big data analytics permeates each aspect of our teaching staff training, course development and evaluation, and sales conversion process, which significantly improves our education quality and student engagement and optimizes our sales and marketing spending on prospective students. We leverage advancements in artificial intelligence technology and our proprietary business & operations support system, or BOSS, to improve the productivity and effectiveness of our instructors and tutors.
Capitalizing on our proprietary technology infrastructure, we have built a highly scalable business that we can expand and replicate rapidly with consistent quality. The average enrollments of our online K-12 courses increased from approximately 600 per course in 2018 to approximately 1,200 per course in 2019, and further increased to approximately 2,200 per course in 2020.
Our Business Model
We provide online live courses in a large-class setting backed by our proprietary technology infrastructure.
 
   
Live
. Our online live course provides students with real-time access to the same group of experienced and high quality instructors, which ensures consistent teaching quality and improves learning efficiency.
 
   
Large-class
. Our courses are offered in large-class format, which amplifies the benefits of online education and allows us to rapidly expand our student base. In 2019 and 2020, our online K-12 courses had an average of approximately 1,200 and 2,200 enrollments per course, respectively. We have adopted a dual-teacher system whereby we staff each class with an instructor and multiple tutors to attentively engage with each student and facilitate an interactive learning environment.
 
   
Proprietary technology infrastructure
. With our focus on promoting technology-driven education, we have built a robust proprietary technology infrastructure that has enabled us to expand and replicate rapidly with consistent education quality.
Our Course Offerings
We target students of all age groups through our course offerings covering a wide spectrum of topics. Our core expertise is in online K-12 courses across all primary and secondary grades. We also offer foreign language, professional and admission courses for post-secondary and adult students. We plan to enrich our course offerings as we continue to expand our student base.
We develop substantially all of our course contents in-house to provide high quality and effective online education experience for students. Our instructors use our standardized curriculum for each course to ensure a seamless and effective learning experience for students of different grades and background.
K-12 Courses
We have a comprehensive set of course offerings for K-12 courses. It primarily includes K-12 after-school tutoring covering all grades and major subjects, together with critical thinking and children’s English courses. Our K-12 courses contributed 80.7% and 87.5%, respectively, of our total revenues in 2019 and 2020. In 2020, 92.5% of our paid course enrollments were from our K-12 courses, compared to 89.5% in 2019 and 74.8% in 2018.
 
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K-12 after-school tutoring
We offer our K-12 after-school tutoring courses in four semesters, namely the two school semesters in Spring (March to June) and Fall (September to December) and the two holiday semesters in Summer (July to August) and Winter (January to February). Our K-12 courses are offered throughout the year at the beginning of each semester. We typically offer K-12 classes during weekends for the two school semesters in Spring and Fall and on a daily basis, generally for a consecutive period of six to ten days, during the two holiday semesters in Summer and Winter. We also provide courses that help improve students’ specific capabilities, such as those related to English phonetic symbol.
Our K-12 after-school tutoring courses cover the core K-12 academic subjects, including mathematics, English, Chinese, physics, chemistry, biology, history, geography and political science. The following table provides a list of our current course offerings:
 
    
Elementary School
  
Middle School
  
High School
    
1
  
2
  
3
  
4
  
5
  
6
  
7
  
8
  
9
  
10
  
11
  
12
Mathematics
                                   
English
                                   
Chinese
                                   
Physics
                                               
Chemistry
                                                   
Biology
                                                     
History
                                                     
Geography
                                                       
Political Science
                                                         
 
●:
Offered by us.
Other courses
Our tailor-made smart learning platform for children between 3 to 8 years old mainly offers Chinese, Mathematics and English courses. The platform aims to improve children’s language ability, and ability to think and express themselves in order to better prepare themselves for elementary school courses.
We also offer courses that help children between 6 to 12 years old develop disciplined and sustainable studies habits and improve their critical thinking ability.
Foreign Language, Professional and Admission Courses
Our course offerings for foreign language, professional and admission contributed 17.9% and 12.2%, respectively, of our total revenues in 2019 and 2020.
Foreign language courses
We provide foreign language courses, including English and Japanese to students who intend to learn or improve a foreign language. English courses have been our primary foreign language courses, in the line with the fact that English is widely recognized as the international language of business and has become an important language for pursuing career development opportunities in China. Our English courses are designed to teach and improve a specific area of the language, such as grammar, vocabulary, or spoken English. Our Japanese courses consist of proficiency lessons and test preparation courses for language certification exams. We also offer English test preparation courses for students taking post-graduate entrance exams in China.
 
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Professional courses
Our professional courses primarily consist of courses designed for working adults preparing for professional qualification exams, including teacher’s qualification, the Chartered Financial Analyst designation, securities qualification exams, and others.
Our professional courses focus on test-taking techniques designed to help students achieve high scores on the admissions and assessment tests. Our instructors regularly review the latest examinations to ensure the corresponding course materials are up to date.
Admission courses
We also offer admission courses designed to boost students’ ability to achieve high scores in admission tests, including national graduate entrance examination, civil service examinations, and others.
Other Service Offerings
We also operate Weishi, our interactive learning platform on WeChat for users, including instructors and students, who follow our account.
Dual-teacher System
We have engineered a dual-teacher system, comprised of high quality instructors and professional tutors, to facilitate a disciplined and interactive learning environment. We pair our instructors with a group of dedicated tutors who are well trained in the course materials and attend to each student to further improve their engagement and learning effectiveness. For our K-12 courses, we break each large-class into multiple smaller groups, and assign a tutor into each group to closely follow up with each student before, during and after each lesson. Tutors are responsible for addressing students’ in-class queries, correcting students’ post-class exercises, providing support to students and parents after class, and instilling discipline in the students to attend the classes and learn. We also train our tutors to provide emotional support to students to help cope with the challenging aspects of their studies. This system allows large-class students to simultaneously learn from our high quality instructors while enjoying personalized tutoring services.
We have designed a unique “
7+6 Steps
” learning methodology integrated into our dual-teacher system to encompass every step that is essential for students’ effective learning. Our “
7+6 Steps
” learning methodology includes seven steps for pre-lesson, mid-lesson and post-lesson learning activities to ensure delivery of consistent teaching quality and six steps for post-lesson reviewing activities provided by tutors to enhance an effective learning experience and reinforce knowledge retention for students.
 
 
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Our “
7+6 Steps
” learning methodology provides a holistic learning solution that enhances effective learning experience throughout the entire duration of a student’s learning during the course.
We believe our dual-teacher system is critical to our success and have devoted significant resources to maintain high quality instruction and motivate instructors and tutors. This is reflected in our selective hiring process, strong emphasis on continued training, and competitive performance-based compensation based on rigorous on-going evaluation.
Our Instructors
We are committed to developing and maintaining a team of high quality instructors. We believe our instructors’ teaching capabilities, experience and proven track record fundamentally differentiate us from our competitors. As of December 31, 2020, we had 392 instructors.
We primarily seek qualified instructors who have extensive teaching experience and a strong reputation from other education institutions. We have adopted a quantitative approach to comprehensively assess candidates nationwide based on a wide set of criteria.
Recruitment
Leveraging our management team’s deep experience in the education sector, we have been able to accurately identify and effectively recruit and retain high quality instructors across our course offerings. We have a team of highly experienced recruitment personnel to seek qualified instructors across China. We attract applicants through various online career websites and we regularly participate in job fairs. Prospective candidates must go through our rigorous interview process, including resume screening, in-person interviews, and demo courses.
Training and Supervision
All newly-hired instructors are required to undergo standardized training to improve their skills in delivering courses to large-class students in a live format. Our instructors are required to continue to participate in periodic training programs that focus on education content, teaching skills and techniques, teaching performance in an online setting, and our corporate culture and values.
We have a quality assurance team that monitors the performance of our instructors for each course and generates analysis reports for the supervisor in the relevant subject area. Our instructors regularly receive constructive feedback on their courses from their supervisor. Our quality assurance team evaluates instructors’ performance based on an integrated, standardized evaluation system, including presentation skills, teaching process, course content and reactions to any emergent events. We provide personalized training programs for each instructor to address particular areas for improvement based on feedback from students and our quality assurance team.
Evaluation and Compensation
We adopt a comprehensive set of key performance indicators, or KPIs, and qualitative factors to evaluate instructor performance, including, among others, student retention, teaching capability, and dedication. Our instructors’ promotion is to a large extent based on these KPIs and qualitative factors. To incentivize our instructors, we offer competitive performance-based bonuses based on student and parent satisfaction.
Our Tutors
Our tutors provide academic guidance and daily support to students and parents of K-12 students throughout the entire duration of a course. As of December 31, 2020, we employed 15,291 full-time tutors. Our tutors’ responsibilities typically include:
 
   
interacting with students and parents of K-12 students frequently to monitor students’ learning progress and facilitate an engaging learning environment;
 
   
responding to students’ in-class queries, correcting students’ post-class exercises in a timely manner after submission and providing prompt and personalized feedback to students and parents; and
 
42

   
cooperating with instructors to improve student satisfaction and student retention.
Recruitment
We primarily seek tutor candidates from recent graduates of reputable universities in China who have demonstrated proficiency in the relevant subjects, a strong sense of responsibility, as well as good communication skills and learning capabilities. We hold recruiting events at universities across China to seek for qualified candidates. We have entered into cooperation arrangements with universities in China, through which we promote our job offerings to and accept applications from their students. We also partner with universities in China to provide internship and graduate programs to develop a talent pipeline for our tutor team. In addition, we regularly participate in job fairs to hire qualified candidates with one to two years of work experience.
Training
We provide our newly hired tutors with an orientation program to introduce their work flow and job responsibilities. To ensure our tutors will continue to engage and build relationship with students and parents of K-12 students, we have developed systematic on-the-job training programs on four specific areas, including training that focuses on our corporate culture and responsibilities of tutors, standardized training for our tutors’ work flow, a training program that improves tutors’ personal capabilities, and a training program to enhance tutors’ management skills. Our tutors are required to attentively reach out to students and parents of K-12 students at each stage of their learning process based on our standardized work flow provided in our training programs. We also train our tutors to identify signs of learning challenges of students and provide emotional support to students to help cope with the challenging aspects of their studies. We have an on-going review mechanism to assess our tutors’ job performance.
Evaluation and Compensation
We use various KPIs to measure the performance of our tutors, which include, among others, student retention, exercise completion, and student and parent satisfaction. Students and parents may provide feedback on the quality of our tutors anytime. Our tutors’ compensation consists of base salary and performance-based bonuses determined by student retention and class and exercise completion.
Education Content Development
Education Content Development Team
In addition to our instructors, we also have a dedicated team of staff focused on education content development. Our educational content development team focuses on the following three areas:
 
   
Develop our proprietary course curriculum and educational content. Our content development team mainly focuses on developing, updating and improving our syllabi and course materials to stay abreast of the latest educational trends in their respective subject areas. For example, our course materials for our K-12 courses are typically updated every three months to remain current with evolving formal K-12 education curricula.
 
   
Enhance course materials to cater to our live learning setting. Our content development team works with our instructors to ensure our courses and educational content are delivered in an engaging and effective manner. While our instructors retain control of and flexibility in the way their classes are taught, our content development personnel, leveraging experience and data analytics, recommend to our instructors the best practices in teaching in an online setting. For example, for our elementary school courses, we develop scenario-based multi-media teaching content, including videos, animated materials, AI-supported video assessments, and application of virtual background in live broadcasting, to stimulate children’s learning interest and motivation throughout the learning experience.
 
   
Design course materials. We deliver hard copies of our course materials to students and provide online course materials. Our content development team edits the lay-out and presentation of our course materials.
 
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Content Development Process
We design and develop substantially all of our course materials in-house, including course outlines, interactive courseware, practice exercises and lesson notes, to ensure a seamless and effective learning experience for our students. We maintain a strict process for creating new course materials. Before new course material is officially applied, the drafts, along with the accompanying practice exercises, typically undergo multiple rounds of internal review. We generally pilot test new courses for up to six to twelve months before they are broadly released. We regularly update our course materials to stay abreast of the latest educational trends in their respective subject areas. Our content development team closely monitors the academic requirements in the PRC education system and work with our instructors to ensure that our syllabi and course materials are up to date with the mandated curricula. We also develop and update curricula and course materials tailored for classes of different difficulty levels to address different educational requirements and needs of our students at each grade.
We believe comprehensive quiz banks and exercises are important to enhance students’ learning effectiveness. We offer students pre-class and in-class quizzes and exercises to help them better assess their learning outcomes and identify areas for improvement. Our tutors monitor student performance in these quizzes and exercises and report to our content development team, who will update our quiz banks and exercises catering to student needs as well as identify weaknesses in the educational content and make timely adjustments.
Our Website
We have built a user-friendly interface for students accessing our online classes on our website. Students may raise questions to our instructors in class, interact with other students through live-chat box, and contact our IT team to provide real-time technical support. Instructors may utilize the interactive board to highlight specific text phrases or knowledge points to students.
Our mobile apps
Students may enroll into our courses, attend live courses, review course materials and submit completed exercises through our website, PC terminal and mobile apps. Students may enroll into our courses through our mobile apps and utilize their functions in reviewing course materials and submitting exercises. Our main mobile apps include
Genshuixue
,
Gaotu
and
Weishi
.
Course Fees
Our course fees for our K-12 paid courses and foreign language, professional and admission paid courses typically ranged from RMB99 to RMB4,999 and RMB199 to RMB12,998 per course, respectively, in 2020. We offer discounts under various marketing campaigns and promotions. For example, we offer trial courses at below RMB99 per course.
Our course fees are generally collected in full upon enrollment. We accept payments through major third-party online payment channels in China.
For our online courses, we allow students to withdraw from the enrolled courses at any time and receive refunds for the undelivered classes.
Sales and Marketing
Marketing Channels
We market our course offerings and enhance brand awareness through various online and mobile channels. We place advertisements and conduct marketing on social media platforms in China. At the same time, we also generate sales leads from word-of-mouth referrals by our students and parents of K-12 students. We believe our high quality course offerings and satisfactory student experience will continue to contribute word-of-mouth referrals.
Sales Process
We have formulated an effective and systematic sales conversion standard operating procedure designed to optimize the effectiveness of each step of a prospective student’s interaction with our platform, from content creation, content distribution, sales leads acquisition, to paid enrollment conversion and retention. We believe our sales efficiency relies on the multistage amplification of each of our sales links. We closely monitor the conversion of each sales link to measure our sales effectiveness and continually optimize each sales link.
 
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Content Generation and Distribution
We have a dedicated user growth team who produces highly informative marketing content generally in the format of featured articles and short-form videos on parent-child relationship, book list recommendation, and skill set knowledge. Our promotional content is generally distributed through major social media platforms in China to access targeted audiences.
Promotional Programs
The sales leads generated by our various marketing channels are directed to our sales team. Our sales team encourage prospective students to sign up for promotional classes offered at a discount or for free. We devote significant resources to our trial programs as they have a great contribution to our new paid course enrollments.
Our lower priced promotional program provides well-designed curriculum featuring a series of trial courses throughout a three-to-six-day period. The trial courses follow a similar format and are delivered by the same high quality instructors as our standard courses. Our instructors devote a significant amount of time in preparing these course materials in advance. We staff each class with the same high quality tutors as in our standard courses to assist with students’ daily study and conduct in-depth conversations with parents. Our lower priced promotional program creates an immersive experience for prospective students to understand the effectiveness of our superior teaching quality and our dual-teacher system.
The tutors attentively promote our standard courses to prospective students and parents of K-12 students throughout the lower priced promotional program and continue to follow-up with them after the lower priced promotional program. Our instructors also promote our paid courses when delivering courses in the lower priced promotional program. We believe their promotion, combined with prospective students’ immersive experience of our courses, have served as an effective way to convert sales leads into paid course enrollments.
Data Privacy and Security
We are committed to protecting our students and parents’ personal information and privacy. We have established and implemented a strict platform-wide policy on data collection, processing and usage. To ensure the confidentiality and integrity of our data, we maintain a comprehensive and rigorous data security program. We anonymize and encrypt confidential personal information and take other technological measures to ensure the secure processing, transmission and usage of data. We have also established stringent internal protocols under which we grant classified access to confidential personal data only to limited employees with strictly defined and layered access authority. We strictly control and manage the use of data within our various teams. Our back-end security system is capable of handling malicious attacks to safeguard the security of our operations and to protect the privacy of our students.
Content Monitoring
Our courses undergo multiple rounds of internal review and pilot testing before being broadly released. Our tutors and quality assurance team monitor our live courses, chat messages and other content on our platform to ensure that we are able to identify content that may be deemed inappropriate or violation of laws, regulations and government policies. When any inappropriate or illegal content is identified, we promptly remove the content.
Competition
The online education industry in China is intensely competitive. We face competition in each topic of our course offerings from other online educational service providers, such as TAL Education’s online courses.
We compete primarily on the following factors:
 
   
quality of education services and students’ learning experience;
 
   
the quality of teaching staff;
 
   
technology infrastructure and data analytics capabilities;
 
   
brand recognition; and
 
45

 
scope of course offerings.
We believe that we are well-positioned to effectively compete based on the factors listed above. However, some of our current or future competitors may have longer operating histories, greater brand recognition, or greater financial, technical or marketing resources than we do. For a discussion of risks relating to competition, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business—We face intense competition, which could divert students to our competitors, lead to pricing pressure and loss of market shares, and significantly reduce our net revenues.”
Intellectual Property
Our trademarks, copyrights, domain names, trade secrets and other intellectual property rights distinguish our courses and services from those of our competitors and contribute to our ability to compete in our target markets. We rely on a combination of copyright and trademark law, trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements with employees to protect our intellectual property rights. In addition, under the employment agreements we enter into with our employees, they acknowledge that the intellectual property made by them in connection with their employment with us are our property. We also regularly monitor any infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property rights.
As of the date of this annual report, we have registered 605 domain names relating to our business, 78 software copyrights, 3 literature work copyrights, 11 art work copyright, 3 patents and 592 trademarks in the PRC.
Insurance
We do not maintain any liability insurance or property insurance policies covering students, equipment and facilities for injuries, death or losses due to fire, earthquake, flood or any other disaster. Consistent with customary industry practice in China, we do not maintain business interruption insurance, nor do we maintain key-man life insurance.
Government Regulations
This section sets forth a summary of the most significant rules and regulations that affect our business activities in China or the rights of our shareholders to receive dividends and other distributions from us.
Regulation Related to Value-added Telecommunications Services
On September 25, 2000, the State Council issued the PRC Regulations on Telecommunications, or the Telecommunications Regulations, as last amended on February 6, 2016, to regulate telecommunications activities in China. The Telecommunications Regulations divided the telecommunications services into two categories, namely “infrastructure telecommunications services” and “value-added telecommunications services.” Pursuant to the Telecommunications Regulations, operators of value-added telecommunications services, or VATS, must first obtain a Value-added Telecommunications Business Operating License, or VATS License, from the MIIT, or its provincial level counterparts. On March 1, 2009, the MIIT promulgated the Administrative Measures on Telecommunications Business Operating Licenses, or the Telecom License Measures, which initially became effective on 10 April, 2009, and was amended on July 3, 2017 and came into effect on September 1, 2017. The Telecom License Measures set forth more specific provisions regarding the types of licenses required to operate VATS, the qualifications and procedures for obtaining such licenses and the administration and supervision of such licenses.
The Amended Classified Catalog of Telecommunications Services (2015 Version), or the Amended 2016 MIIT Catalog, which took effect on June 6, 2019, defines information services as “the information services provided for users through public communications networks or internet by means of information gathering, development, processing and the construction of the information platform.” Moreover, information services continue to be classified as a category of VATS and are clarified to include information release and delivery services, information search and query services, information community platform services, information real-time interactive services, and information protection and processing services under the Amended 2016 MIIT Catalog. The Administrative Measures on Internet Information Services, or ICP Measures, promulgated by the PRC State Council on September 25, 2000 and most recently amended on January 8, 2011, set forth more specific rules on the provision of internet information services. According to ICP Measures, any company that engages in the provision of commercial internet information services shall obtain a sub-category VATS License for Internet Information Services, or ICP License, from the relevant government authorities before providing any commercial internet information services within the PRC. Pursuant to the above-mentioned regulations, “commercial internet information services” generally refer to provision of specific information content, online advertising, web page construction and other online application services through internet for profit making purpose.
 
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In addition to the Telecommunications Regulations and the other regulations discussed above, the provision of commercial internet information services on mobile internet applications is regulated by the Administrative Provisions on Mobile Internet Applications Information Services, which was promulgated by Cyberspace Administration of China, or the CAC, on June 28, 2016 and came into effect on August 1, 2016. The providers of mobile internet applications are subject to requirements under these provisions, including acquiring the qualifications and complying with other requirements provided by laws and regulations and being responsible for information security.
We provide information and services to our students through our websites and mobile apps, which is classified as commercial internet information services as defined in the above provisions. To comply with the relevant laws and regulations, Beijing BaiJia, our VIE, has obtained an ICP License which will remain effective until February 27, 2024. Shanghai Jinyou Education Technology Co., Ltd. has obtained an ICP License which will remain effective until May 29, 2024. Tianjin Puxin Online School Education Technology Co., Ltd. currently holds a Value-added Telecommunications Business Operating License.
Regulation Related to Foreign Investment
On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress promulgated the Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and replaced the trio of existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law, together with their implementation rules and ancillary regulations. The existing foreign-invested enterprises established prior to the effective of the Foreign Investment Law may keep their corporate forms within five years. The implementing rules of the Foreign Investment Law will be stipulated separately by State Council. Pursuant to the Foreign Investment Law, “foreign investors” means natural person, enterprise, or other organization of a foreign country, “foreign-invested enterprises” (FIEs) means any enterprise established under PRC law that is wholly or partially invested by foreign investors and “foreign investment” means any foreign investor’s direct or indirect investment in mainland China, including: (i) establishing FIEs in mainland China either individually or jointly with other investors; (ii) obtaining stock shares, stock equity, property shares, other similar interests in Chinese domestic enterprises; (iii) investing in new projects in mainland China either individually or jointly with other investors; and (iv) making investment through other means provided by laws, administrative regulations, or State Council provisions.
The Foreign Investment Law stipulates that China implements the management system of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list to foreign investment and the government generally will not expropriate foreign investment, except under special circumstances, in which case it will provide fair and reasonable compensation to foreign investors. Foreign investors are barred from investing in prohibited industries on the negative list and must comply with the specified requirements when investing in restricted industries on that list. When a license is required to enter a certain industry, the foreign investor must apply for one, and the government must treat the application the same as one by a domestic enterprise, except where laws or regulations provide otherwise. In addition, foreign investors or FIEs are required to file information reports and foreign investment shall be subject to the national security review.
On December 26, 2019, the State Council promulgated the Implementation Rules of Foreign Investment Law, and became effective on January 1, 2020. The Implementation Rules of Foreign Investment Law restates certain principles of the Foreign Investment Law and further provides, among others, the existing FIEs established prior to the effectiveness date of the pursuant to the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law may, within the five-year period following the effective date of the Foreign Investment Law, adjust their corporate form or the governing structure and complete the change in registration pursuant to the provisions of the PRC Company Law, the PRC Partnership Enterprise Law and relevant laws and regulations, and if it fails to do so, the enterprise registration authority will not process other registration matters of the FIE and may publicize such non-compliance starting from January 1, 2025. On December 26, 2019, the Supreme People’s Court issue an Interpretation of the Application of Foreign Investment Law, which further provides details with respects to the validity of foreign investment contracts.
 
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For detailed discussion of the risk associated with the Foreign Investment Law, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—Uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the newly enacted Foreign Investment Law and its Draft Implementation Rules and how they may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance, business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Regulation Related to Foreign Investment Restrictions
Investment activities in China by foreign investors are principally governed by the Guiding Foreign Investment Direction, which was promulgated by the State Council in February 2002 and came into effect in April 2002, and the Special Administrative Measures for the Access of Foreign Investment (Negative List), or the 2020 Negative List, which was promulgated by the Ministry of Commerce and National Development and Reform Commission, or the NDRC, in June 2020 and came into effect in July 2020. The 2020 Negative List sets out the restrictive measures in a unified manner, such as the requirements on shareholding percentages and management, for the access of foreign investments, and the industries that are prohibited for foreign investment. The 2020 Negative List covers 12 industries, and any field not falling in the Negative List shall be administered under the principle of equal treatment to domestic and foreign investment. According to the 2020 Negative List, the proportion of foreign investments in an entity engaging in value-added telecommunications services (except for e-commerce, domestic multi-party communications, storage-forwarding and call centers) shall not exceed 50%.
The Regulations on Administration of Foreign-Invested Telecommunications Enterprises, or the FITE Regulations, which took effect on January 1, 2002 and last amended on February 6, 2016, are the key regulations for foreign direct investment in telecommunications companies in China. The FITE Regulations stipulate that the foreign investor of a telecommunications enterprise is prohibited from holding more than 50% of the equity interest in a foreign-invested enterprise that provides value-added telecommunications services. In addition, the main foreign investor who invests in a value-added telecommunications enterprise in China must demonstrate a positive track record and experience in providing such services. Moreover, foreign investors that meet these qualification requirements that intend to invest in or establish a value-added telecommunications enterprise operating the value-added telecommunications business must obtain approvals from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or the MIIT and MOFCOM, or their authorized local counterparts, which retain considerable discretion in granting approvals.
On July 13, 2006, the MIIT, issued the Circular on Strengthening the Administration of Foreign Investment in Value-added Telecommunications Services, or the MIIT Circular 2006, which requires that (i) foreign investors can only operate a telecommunications business in China through establishing a telecommunications enterprise with a valid telecommunications business operation license; (ii) domestic license holders are prohibited from leasing, transferring or selling telecommunications business operation licenses to foreign investors in any form, or providing any resource, sites or facilities to foreign investors to facilitate the unlicensed operation of telecommunications business in China; (iii) value-added telecommunications services providers or their shareholders must directly own the domain names and registered trademarks they use in their daily operations; (iv) each value-added telecommunications services provider must have the necessary facilities for its approved business operations and maintain such facilities in the geographic regions covered by its license; and (v) all value-added telecommunications services providers should improve network and information security, enact relevant information safety administration regulations and set up emergency plans to ensure network and information safety. The provincial communications administration bureaus, as local authorities in charge of regulating telecommunications services, may revoke the value-added telecommunications business operation licenses of those who fail to comply with the above requirements or fail to rectify such noncompliance within specified time limits.
To comply with the above foreign investment restrictions, we rely on the contractual arrangements with our VIE to operate our business in China. However, there remain substantial uncertainties with respect to the interpretation and application of existing or future PRC laws and regulations on foreign investment. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating certain of our operations in China do not comply with PRC regulations relating to the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations.”
Regulation Related to Private Education
Education Law of the PRC
The PRC Education Law, or the Education Law, which was promulgated on March 18, 1995, and last amended on December 27, 2015, sets forth provisions relating to the fundamental education systems of the PRC, including a school system of pre-school education, primary education, secondary education and higher education, a system of nine-year compulsory education and a system of education certificates. The Education Law stipulates that the government formulates plans for the development of education, establishes and operates schools and other types of educational institutions, and in principle, enterprises, institutions, social organizations and individuals are encouraged to operate schools and other types of educational organizations in accordance with PRC laws and regulations.
 
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The Law for Promoting Private Education and its Implementing Rules
On December 28, 2002, the SCNPC promulgated the Law for Promoting Private Education, or the Private Education Law and was last amended on December 29, 2018 with such amendment effective on the same date. Under the amended Private Education Law, sponsors of private schools may choose to establish non-profit or for-profit private schools at their own discretion and the private schools shall obtain a private school operating permit issued by relevant government authorities and registered with relevant registration authorities.
On August 10, 2018, the Ministry of Justice, or MOJ, published the draft submitted for approval for the amendment to the Regulations on the Implementation of the Law for Promoting Private Education of the PRC, or MOJ Draft for Approval, for public comment. As of the date of this annual report, this MOJ Draft for Approval was still pending for final approval and was not in effect. The MOJ Draft for Approval stipulates that private schools using internet technology to implement online diploma-awarding educational courses shall obtain the private school operating permit of similar academic education at the same level, as well as the internet operating permit. The institutions that use internet technology to implement training and educational activities, vocational qualification and vocational skills training, or providing an internet technology service platform for the above activities, would need to obtain the corresponding internet operating permit and file with the administrative department for education or the department of human resources and social security at the provincial level where the institution is domiciled, and such institutions shall not implement educational and teaching activities which requires the private school operating permit. The internet technology service platform that implements the training and educational activities shall review and register the identity information of institutions or individuals applying for access to the platform.
The MOJ Draft for Approval further stipulates that the establishment of private training and educational organizations enrolling students of kindergarten, primary school, middle and high school age and implementing activities relating to cultural and educational courses at school, or examination-related and further education-related tutoring and other cultural and educational activities, shall be subject to the review and approval of the administrative departments for education of the governments at or above the county level in accordance with the Article 12 of the amended Private Education Law. The establishment of private training and educational organizations that implement activities aiming at quality promotion, personality development in the areas of linguistic competence, arts, physical activities, technology, and activities targeting at cultural education for adults and non-degree continuing education, can apply to register as the legal person directly. However, such private training and/or educational organizations shall not carry out the cultural and educational activities mentioned above, which requires the review and approval of the administrative departments for education. In addition, the social organizations sponsoring group schools are prohibited from controlling any non-profit private schools by virtue of mergers and acquisitions, franchising or controlling contracts.
Uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and application of the existing and future laws and regulations that govern the online private education industry, as well as when and how the MOJ Draft would come into effect and how the local government would promulgate implementing rules relating to the specific requirements applicable to online education service providers like us. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—Uncertainties exist in relation to new legislation or proposed changes in the PRC regulatory requirements regarding online private education, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Regulation Related to After-School Tutoring
The MOE, jointly with certain other PRC government authorities, promulgated the Implementation Opinions on Regulating Online After-School Training, or the Online After-School Training Opinions, effective on July 12, 2019. The Online After-School Training Opinions are intended to regulate academic after-school training involving internet technology provided to students in primary and secondary schools. Among other things, the Online After-School Training Opinions requires that online after-school training institutions shall file with the competent provincial education regulatory authorities and that such education regulatory authorities shall, jointly with other provincial government authorities, review such filings and the qualification of the online after-school training institutions submitting such filings.
 
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With respect to the filing requirements, the Online After-School Training Opinions provides, among others: (i) an online after-school training institution shall file with the competent provincial education regulatory authorities at the place of its domicile after it has obtained the ICP License and the certificate and the grade evaluation report for the graded protection of cyber security; (ii) the online after-school training institutions shall file, among others, (x) the materials related to the institution itself, including the information on their respective ICP License and other relevant licenses and the materials related to certain management systems regarding the protection of personal information and cyber security, (y) the materials related to the training content, and (z) the materials related to the training personnel; and (iii) the competent provincial education regulatory authorities shall promulgate local implementing rules about the filing requirements, focusing on the training institutions, training content and training personnel.
The Online After-School Training Opinions further provides that the competent provincial education regulatory authorities shall, jointly with other provincial government authorities, review such filings and the qualifications of the online after-school training institutions submitting such filings, focusing on the following matters: (i) the training content shall not include online games or other content or links irrelevant with the training, and shall not be beyond the relevant national school syllabus. No illegal publications may be published, printed, reproduced or distributed, and no infringement or piracy activities may be conducted during the training. And the training content and data shall be stored for more than one year, among which, the live streaming teaching videos shall be stored for more than 60 days; (ii) each course shall not last longer than 40 minutes and shall be taken at intervals of not less than 10 minutes, and the training time shall not conflict with the teaching time of primary and secondary schools. Each live-streaming course provided to students receiving compulsory education shall not end later than 9:00 p.m., and shall not leave homework for primary school students in Grade 1 and Grade 2. The online after-school training platforms shall have eye protection and parental supervision functions; (iii) the online after-school training institutions shall not hire any teacher who is currently working at primary or secondary schools. Training personnel of academic subjects are required to obtain necessary teacher qualification licenses. The online after-school training institutions’ training platforms and course interfaces shall publicize the names, photos and teacher qualification licenses of training personnel, and the learning, working and teaching experiences of foreign training personnel; (iv) with the consent of students and their respective parents, online after-school training institutions shall verify the identification information of each student, and shall not illegally sell or provide such information to third parties. User behavior log must be kept for more than one year; (v) the charge items and standard and refund policy shall be specifically publicized on the training platforms. The prepaid fees can only be used for education and training purpose, and shall not be used for other investment activities; where fees are charged based on the number of classes, fees are not allowed to be collected in a lump sum for more than 60 classes, and where fees are charged based on the length of the course, the fees shall not be collected for a course length of more than three months; and (vi) the online after-school training institutions found to have problems after review by the competent provincial education regulatory authorities shall complete the rectification, and will be subject to fines, regulatory order to suspend operations or other regulatory and disciplinary sanctions if they fail to complete the rectification in time.
On August 10, 2019, the MOE, jointly with certain other PRC government authorities, issued Opinions on Guiding and Regulating the Orderly and Healthy Development of Educational Mobile Apps, or the Opinions on Educational Apps, which require, among others, for mobile apps that provide services for school teaching and management, student learning and student life, or home-school interactions, with school faculty, students or parents as the main users, and with education or learning as the main application scenarios (the “Educational Apps”), be filed with competent provincial regulatory authorities for education. The Opinions on Educational Apps also require, among others, that: (i) before such filing, the Educational App’s provider shall have obtained ICP License or completed ICP License filing and obtained the certificate and grade evaluation report for graded protection of cybersecurity; (ii) Educational Apps with main users under the age of 18 shall limit the users’ usage time, specify the range of suitable ages, and strictly monitor contents; (iii) before an Educational App is introduced as a mandatory app to students, such Educational App shall be approved by the applicable school through collective decision-making process and be filed with the competent education authority; and (iv) Educational Apps adopted by education authorities and schools as their uniformly used teaching or management tools shall not charge the students or parents any fees, and shall not offer any commercial advertisements or games. On November 11, 2019, the MOE issued the Management Rules on Filing of Educational Mobile Apps, which supplement the filing requirements of the Educational Apps.
On September 29, 2019, the education regulatory authority in Beijing promulgated the Trial Implementation Rules on Filings of Beijing Online After-School Training, or Beijing Online After-School Training Implementation Rules. The Beijing Online After-School Training Implementation Rules are applicable to training institutions that are registered in Beijing or complete ICP filings with the competent authorities in Beijing and provide online academic after-school training to students in primary and secondary schools. Pursuant to the Beijing Online After-School Training Implementation Rules, online after-school training institutions shall submit filings for providing online after-school training services via an online national platform for online after-school administration services, and the education regulatory authorities in Beijing, together with other government authorities shall complete review of such filing documents.
 
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On September 19, 2019, the MOE, jointly with certain other PRC government authorities, issued the Guidance Opinions on Promoting the Healthy Development of Online Education, which provides, among others, that (i) social forces are encouraged to establish online education institutions, develop online education resources, and provide high quality education services; and (ii) an online education negative list shall be promulgated and industries not included in the negative list are open for all types of entities to enter into.
On June 10, 2020, the General Office of MOE and the General Office of the State Administration for Market Regulation, or SAMR, promulgated the Notice on Issuing the Form of Service Contract for After-school Training Provided to Primary and Secondary School Students, which requires the local competent regulatory authorities to guide the relevant parties to use the form of service contract for after-school training activities provided to primary and secondary school students. The form of service contract covers the obligations and rights of parties involved in the after-school training, including detailed provisions on training fees, refund arrangement and default liabilities.
On October 16, 2020, the General Office of the MOE and the General Office of the SAMR jointly promulgated the Notice on the Centralized Rectification of After-school Tutoring Institutions’ Illegal Acts of Infringing Consumers’ Rights by Using Unfair Standard Terms. The Notice stipulates that local education and market regulation authorities shall increase the efforts for the investigation of after-school tutoring institutions’ illegal acts which infringes consumers’ rights by using unfair standard terms/ to exempt them from their own responsibility, increase consumers’ liability and exclude consumers’ legal rights.
The Law for Protection of Minors issued by The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 29 December 2006, was recently amended on 17 October 2020, which will take effect on June 1, 2021. According to the amended Law for Protection of Minors, online education products and services which are targeted at minors shall not include any links to online games or push any advertisements and other information irrelevant to teaching.
On February 5, 2021, Beijing Municipal Education Commission issued an inspection notice, or the Beijing Inspection Notice, which requires online after-school institutions to conduct self-inspections for their compliance of Online After-School Training Opinions; specifically, the Beijing Inspection Notice requires institutions to take academic after-school training courses off the shelve, if such courses are taught by instructors without teaching qualifications. The Beijing Inspection Notice also requires online afterschool institutions to complete rectification within ten days, and in case of failure to complete the rectification within such time limit, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education will, in concert with cyberspace administration and market supervision departments, suspend or remove the online training courses that fail to meet the requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations.
In April 2021, the general office of MOE issued the Circular on Strengthening the Operation Management of Compulsory Education Schools. Such circular prohibits after-school training institutions from assigning homework to primary and secondary school students.
We have submitted the filings, and relevant authorities have finished their review of our filings, according to the Online After-School Training Opinions, the Beijing Online After-School Training Implementation Rules and the Opinions on Educational Apps. We have also completed the required self-inspection and rectifications pursuant to the Beijing Inspection Notice. We have been taking necessary measures to comply with the above requirements in these circulars. However, the special regulations for online education are relatively new and the enforcement practices are evolving, our current practice may be deemed to be not in full compliance with these requirements. For detailed discussion, please see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—Uncertainties exist in relation to new legislation or proposed changes in the PRC regulatory requirements regarding online private education, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Regulation Related to Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs
To regulate the provision of audio-visual program services to the public via the internet, including through mobile networks, within the territory of the PRC, the State Administration of Press Publication Radio Film and Television, or the SAPPRFT (currently known as National Radio and Television Administration), and the MIIT jointly promulgated the Administrative Provisions on Internet Audio-Visual Program Service, or the Audio-Visual Program Provisions, on December 20, 2007, which came into effect on January 31, 2008 and was last amended on August 28, 2015. Under the Audio-Visual Program Provisions, “online audio-visual program services” is defined as activities of producing, redacting and integrating audio-visual programs, providing them to the general public via internet, and providing service for other people to upload and transmit audio-visual programs, and providers of online audio-visual program services are required to obtain a License for Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs issued by the SAPPRFT, or complete certain registration procedures with the SAPPRFT. In general, providers of online audio-visual program services must be either state-owned or state-controlled entities, and the business to be carried out by such providers must satisfy the overall planning and guidance catalog for internet audio-visual program service determined by the SAPPRFT.
 
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On May 21, 2008, SAPPRFT issued a Notice on Relevant Issues Concerning Application and Approval of License for the Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs, as amended on August 28, 2015, which sets out detailed provisions concerning the application and approval process regarding the License for Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs. According to the above regulations, providers of internet audio-visual program services that engaged in such services prior to the promulgation of the Audio-Visual Program Provisions are eligible to apply for the license so long as those providers did not violate the relevant laws and regulations in the past or their violation of the laws and regulations is minor in scope and can be rectified in a timely manner and they have no records of violation during the last three months prior to the promulgation of the Audio-Visual Program Provisions.
On March 30, 2009, SAPPRFT promulgated the Notice on Strengthening the Administration of the Content of Internet Audio-Visual Programs, which reiterates the pre-approval requirements for the audio-visual programs transmitted via the internet, including through mobile networks, where applicable, and prohibits certain types of internet audio-visual programs containing violence, pornography, gambling, terrorism, superstition or other similarly prohibited elements.
On March 10, 2017, SAPPRFT issued the Provisional Implementation of the Tentative Categories of Internet Audio-Visual Program Services, or the Categories, which revised the previous version issued on March 17, 2010. According to the Categories, there are four categories of internet audio and video programs services which are further divided into seventeen sub-categories. The third sub-category to the second category covers the making and editing of certain specialized audio-visual programs concerning, among other things, educational content, and broadcasting such content to the general public online.
On March 16, 2018, the SAPPRFT promulgated the Notice on Further Regulating the Transmission Order of Internet Audio-Visual Program Services, providing that the classic literary works, radio, film and television programs, internet original audio-visual programs shall not be re-edited, re-dubbed, re-subtitled or partly captured and consolidated as a new program without authorizations and providers of internet audio-visual program services shall strictly manage and supervise such re-edited programs uploaded by the internet users and shall not provide any transmission channel for those internet audio-visual programs which have political orientation issues, copyright issues or content issues.
We currently do not hold a License for Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs. As of the date of this annual report, online education institutions like us are not explicitly required to obtain the License for Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether the local PRC authorities would adopt a different practice. In addition, it remains uncertain whether the PRC governmental authorities would issue more explicit interpretation and rules or promulgate new laws and regulations. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—We face uncertainties with respect to the development of regulatory requirements on operating licenses and permits for our online education services in China. Failure to renew requested licenses or permits in a timely manner or obtain newly required ones due to adverse changes in regulations or policies could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Regulation Related to Internet Live Streaming Services
On September 2, 2016, the SAPPRFT promulgated the Notice on Strengthening the Administration of Live Streaming Services of Internet Audio-Visual Program, which provides that any entity that intends to engage in live audio-visual broadcasting of major political, military, economic, social, cultural or sport events or activities, or live audio-visual broadcasting of general social or cultural group activities, general sporting events or other organizational events, must obtain a License for Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs with a permitted operation scope covering the above business activities. Any entity or individual without qualification is prohibited from broadcasting live audio-visual programs involving news, variety shows, sports, interviews, commentary or other forms of programs through any online live-streaming platform or online live broadcasting booth, nor are they permitted to start a live broadcasting channel for any audio-visual programs. In addition, any entity without such license shall not operate audio-visual live streaming business and the live streaming programs provided by the qualified company shall not contain any content forbidden by laws and regulations.
 
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On November 4, 2016, the CAC promulgated the Provisions on the Administration of Internet Live Streaming Services, or the Internet Live Streaming Provisions, effective from December 1, 2016. Under the Internet Live Stream Provisions, “internet live streaming service” is defined as the activities of continuously releasing real-time information to the public on internet in such forms as videos, audios, images and texts and the “internet live streaming service provider” is defined thereunder as an operator of the platform providing internet live streaming platform services. The Internet Live Streaming Provisions provide that internet live streaming service providers shall examine and verify the identity information of internet live-streaming issuers and file the identity information of the issuers with local counterparts of the CAC.
On July 12, 2017, the CAC issued a Notice on Development of the Filing Work for Enterprises Providing Internet Live Streaming Services, which provides that all the companies providing internet live streaming services shall file with the local authority since July 15, 2017, otherwise the CAC or its local counterparts may impose administrative sanctions on such companies.
Pursuant to the Circular on Tightening the Administration of Internet Live-Streaming Services jointly issued by the MIIT, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, or the MCOT, and several other government agencies on August 1, 2018, live streaming services providers are required to file with the local public security authority within 30 days after it commences the service online.
After consulting with the local counterparts of the CAC, we were informed that currently institutions offering education services via online-streaming like us are not required to complete the above-mentioned filings in practice.
Regulation Related to Production and Distribution of Radio and Television Programs
On 19 July 2004, SAPPRFT promulgated the Administrative Measures on the Production and Operation of Radio and Television Programs, or the Radio and TV Programs Measures, which became effective on 20 August 2004 and were last amended on October 29, 2020. The Radio and TV Programs Measures are applicable for establishing institutions that produce and distribute radio and television programs or for the production of radio and television programs like programs with a special topic, column programs, variety shows, animated cartoons, radio plays and television dramas and for activities like transactions and agency transactions of program copyrights. Pursuant to the Radio and TV Programs Measures, any entity that intends to produce or operate radio or television programs must first obtain the Permit for Production and Operation of Radio and TV Programs from SAPPRFT or its local branches.
We currently hold a Permit for Production and Operation of Radio and TV Programs that is valid until February 26, 2022.
Regulation Related to Internet Culture Activities
On May 10, 2003, the Ministry of Culture, or MOC (currently known as the MCOT), promulgated the Interim Administrative Provisions on Internet Culture, or the Internet Culture Provisions, which became effective on July 1, 2003 and was amended on February 17, 2011 and December 15, 2017. The Internet Culture Provisions require internet information services providers engaging in commercial “internet culture activities” to obtain an Internet Culture Business Operating License from the MOC. “Internet cultural activity” is defined under the Internet Culture Provisions as an act of provision of internet cultural products and related services, which includes (i) the production, duplication, importation, and broadcasting of the internet cultural products; (ii) the online dissemination whereby cultural products are posted on the internet or transmitted via the internet to end-users, such as computers, fixed-line telephones, mobile phones, television sets and games machines, for online users’ browsing, use or downloading; and (iii) the exhibition and competition of the internet cultural products. In addition, “internet cultural products” is defined under the Internet Culture Provisions as cultural products produced, broadcast and disseminated via the internet, which mainly include internet cultural products especially produced for the internet, such as online music entertainment, online games, online shows and plays (programs), online performances, online works of art and online cartoons, and internet cultural products produced from cultural products such as music entertainment, games, shows and plays (programs), performances, works of art, and cartoons through certain techniques and duplicating those to internet for dissemination.
On May 14, 2019, the General Office of MOC promulgated the Notice on Adjusting the Scope of Internet Culture Business Operating License and Further Standardize the Approval Work, which provides that online music, online shows and plays, online performances, online works of art, online cartoons, displays and games are the activities that fall in the scope of Internet Culture Business Operating License, and further clarifies that educational live streaming activities are not online performances.
 
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We currently hold an Internet Cultural Business Operating License that is valid until October 15, 2022.
Regulation Related to Online Publishing
On February 4, 2016, the SAPPRFT (currently reformed into the State Administration of Press and Publication (National Copyright Bureau) under the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China) and the MIIT jointly issued the Administrative Provisions on Online Publishing Services, or the Online Publishing Provisions, which came into effect on March 10, 2016. Under the Online Publishing Provisions, any entity providing online publishing services shall obtain an Online Publishing Services Permit. “Online publishing services” refer to the provision of online publications to the public through information networks; and “online publications” refer to digital works with publishing features such as having been edited, produced or processed and are available to the public through information networks, including: (i) written works, pictures, maps, games, cartoons, audio/video reading materials and other original digital works containing useful knowledge or ideas in the field of literature, art, science or other fields; (ii) digital works of which the content is identical to that of any published book, newspaper, periodical, audio/video product, electronic publication or the like; (iii) network literature databases or other digital works, derived from any of the aforesaid works by selection, arrangement, collection or other means; and (iv) other types of digital works as may be determined by the SAPPRFT.
We currently do not hold an Online Publishing Service Permit. As of the date of this annual report, there are no explicit interpretation from the governmental authorities or prevailing enforcement practice deeming the provision of our educational content to our students through our online platform as “online publishing” which requires an Online Publishing Service Permit. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether the local PRC authorities would adopt a different practice. In addition, it remains uncertain whether the PRC governmental authorities would issue more explicit interpretation and rules or promulgate new laws and regulations. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—We face uncertainties with respect to the development of regulatory requirements on operating licenses and permits for our online education services in China. Failure to renew requested licenses or permits in a timely manner or obtain newly required ones due to adverse changes in regulations or policies could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Regulation Related to Internet Information Security and Privacy Protection
The PRC Constitution states that the PRC laws protect the freedom and privacy of communications of citizens and prohibit infringement of such rights. PRC governmental authorities have enacted laws and regulations on internet information security and protection of personal information from any abuse or unauthorized disclosure. The Decisions on Maintaining Internet Security which was enacted by the Standing Committee of the PRC National People’s Congress, or the SCNPC on December 28, 2000 and amended on August 27, 2009, may subject violators to criminal punishment in the PRC for any effort to: (i) gain improper entry into a computer or system of strategic importance; (ii) disseminate politically disruptive information; (iii) leak state secrets; (iv) spread false commercial information; or (v) infringe intellectual property rights. The Ministry of Public Security has promulgated measures that prohibit use of the internet in ways which, among other things, result in a leakage of state secrets or a spread of socially destabilizing content. If an information service provider violates these measures, the Ministry of Public Security and the local security bureaus may revoke its operating license and shut down its websites.
Pursuant to the Decision on Strengthening the Protection of Online Information issued by the SCNPC on December 28, 2012, and the Order for the Protection of Telecommunication and Internet User Personal Information issued by the MIIT on July 16, 2013, any collection and use of user personal information must be subject to the consent of the user, abide by the principles of legality, rationality and necessity and be within the specified purposes, methods and scopes. “Personal information” is defined as information that identifies a citizen, the time or location for his/her use of telecommunication and internet services or involves privacy of any citizen such as his/her birth date, ID card number, and address. An internet information service provider must also keep information collected strictly confidential, and is further prohibited from divulging, tampering or destroying of any such information, or selling or providing such information to other parties. Any violation of the above decision or order may subject the internet information service provider to warnings, fines, confiscation of illegal gains, revocation of licenses, cancelation of filings, closedown of websites or even criminal liabilities.
 
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Pursuant to the Notice of the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security on Legally Punishing Criminal Activities Infringing upon the Personal Information of Citizens, issued in 2013, and the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Several Issues regarding Legal Application in Criminal Cases Infringing upon the Personal Information of Citizens, which was issued on May 8, 2017 and took effect on June 1, 2017, the following activities may constitute the crime of infringing upon a citizen’s personal information:(i) providing a citizen’s personal information to specified persons or releasing a citizen’s personal information online or through other methods in violation of relevant national provisions; (ii) providing legitimately collected information relating to a citizen to others without such citizen’s consent (unless the information is processed, not traceable to a specific person and not recoverable); (iii) collecting a citizen’s personal information in violation of applicable rules and regulations when performing a duty or providing services; or (iv) collecting a citizen’s personal information by purchasing, accepting or exchanging such information in violation of applicable rules and regulations.
Pursuant to the Ninth Amendment to the Criminal Law issued by the SCNPC in August 2015, which became effective in November 2015, any person or entity that fails to fulfill the obligations related to internet information security administration as required by applicable laws and refuses to rectify upon orders is subject to criminal penalty for the result of (i) any dissemination of illegal information in large scale; (ii) any severe effect due to the leakage of the client’s information; (iii) any serious loss of criminal evidence; or (iv) other severe situation, and any individual or entity that (i) sells or provides personal information to others in a way violating the applicable law, or (ii) steals or illegally obtain any personal information is subject to criminal penalty in severe situation.
Pursuant to the PRC Cyber Security Law issued by the SCNPC on November 7, 2016, effective as of June 1, 2017, “personal information” refers to all kinds of information recorded by electronic or otherwise that can be used to independently identify or be combined with other information to identify individuals’ personal information including but not limited to: individuals’ names, dates of birth, ID numbers, biologically identified personal information, addresses and telephone numbers, etc. The Cyber Security Law also provides that: (i) to collect and use personal information, network operators shall follow the principles of legitimacy, rightfulness and necessity, disclose rules of data collection and use, clearly express the purposes, means and scope of collecting and using the information, and obtain the consent of the persons whose data is gathered; (ii) network operators shall neither gather personal information unrelated to the services they provide, nor gather or use personal information in violation of the provisions of laws and administrative regulations or the scopes of consent given by the persons whose data is gathered; and shall dispose of personal information they have saved in accordance with the provisions of laws and administrative regulations and agreements reached with users; (iii) network operators shall not divulge, tamper with or damage the personal information they have collected, and shall not provide the personal information to others without the consent of the persons whose data is collected. However, if the information has been processed and cannot be recovered and thus it is impossible to match such information with specific persons, such circumstance is an exception.
Pursuant to the Provisions on Internet Security Supervision and Inspection by Public Security Organs, which was promulgated by the Ministry of Public Security on September 15, 2018 and became effective on November 1, 2018, the public security departments are authorized to carry out internet security supervision and inspection of the internet service providers from the following aspects, among others: (i) whether the service providers have completed the recordation formalities for online entities, and filed the basic information on and the changes of the accessing entities and users; (ii) whether they have established and implemented the cybersecurity management system and protocols, and appointed the persons responsible for cybersecurity; (iii) whether the technical measures for recording and retaining users’ registration information and weblog data are in place according to the law; (iv) whether they have taken technical measures to prevent computer viruses, network attacks and network intrusion; (v) whether they have adopted preventive measures to tackle the information that is prohibited to be issued or transmitted by the laws and administrative regulations in the public information services; (vi) whether they provide technical support and assistance as required by laws to public security departments to safeguard national security and prevent and investigate on terrorist activities and criminal activities; and (vii) whether they have fulfilled the obligations of the grade-based cybersecurity protection and other obligations prescribed by the laws and administrative regulations. In particular, public security departments shall also carry out supervision and inspection on whether an internet service provider has taken required measures to manage information published by users, adopted proper measures to handle the published or transmitted information that is prohibited to be published or transmitted, and kept the relevant records.
In addition, the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, the MIIT, the Ministry of Public Security, and the SAMR jointly issued an Announcement of Launching Special Crackdown Against Illegal Collection and Use of Personal Information by Apps on January 23, 2019 to implement special rectification works against mobile Apps that collect and use personal information in violation of applicable laws and regulations, where business operators are prohibited from collecting personal information irrelevant to their services, or forcing users to give authorization in disguised manner. On November 28, 2019, the National Internet Information Office, the MIIT, the Ministry of Public Security and the SAMR further jointly issued a notice to classify and identify illegal collection and use of personal information.
 
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On August 22, 2019, the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission issued the Provisions on the Cyber Protection of Children’s Personal Information, which took effect on October 1, 2019. The Provisions on the Cyber Protection of Children’s Personal Information apply to the collection, storage, use, transfer and disclosure of the personal information of children under the age of 14 via the internet. The Provisions on the Cyber Protection of Children’s Personal Information require that network operators shall establish special rules and user agreements for protection of personal information for children under the age of 14, inform their guardians in a noticeable and clear manner, and shall obtain the consent of their guardians. When obtaining the consent of their guardians, network operators shall explicitly disclose several matters, including, without limitation, the purpose, method and scope of collection, storage, use, transfer and disclosure of such personal information, and methods for correcting and deleting such personal information. Provisions on the Cyber Protection of Children’s Personal Information also require that when collecting, storing, using, transferring and disclosing such personal information, network operators shall comply with certain regulatory requirements, including, without limitation, that network operators shall designate specific personnel to take charge of the protection of such personal information and shall strictly grant information access authorization for their staff to such personal information under the principle of minimal authorization.
According to the Civil Code, which took effect on January 1, 2021, a natural person shall have the right of privacy and the personal information of a natural person shall be protected in accordance with law. Information processors shall not divulge or tamper with the personal information collected or stored by them and shall not illegally provide any natural person’s personal information to others without the consent of such natural person.
As an online education service provider, we are subject to these laws and regulations relating to protection of internet security and protection of privacy. To comply with the above law and regulations, we have established and maintained a comprehensive data security program. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Data Privacy and Security.”
Regulation Related to Publication Distribution
Under the Administrative Provisions on the Publications Market, or the Publication Market Provisions, which was jointly promulgated by the SAPPRFT and the MOFCOM on May 31, 2016 and became effective on June 1, 2016, any enterprise or individual who engages in publication distribution activities shall obtain a Publication Operation License from SAPPRFT or its local counterpart. “Publication” is defined as “books, newspapers, periodicals, audio-visual products, and electronic publications,” and “distributing” is defined as “general distribution, wholesale, retail, rental, exhibition and other activities,” respectively, in the Publication Market Provisions. Without licensing, such entity or individual may be ordered to cease illegal acts by the competent administrative department of publication and be concurrently subject to fines. We print and provide physical education materials to our students without holding a Publication Operation License. If such practice is deemed by the government authorities as “publication distribution” pursuant to the above provisions, we may be required to obtain a Publication Operation License. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—We face uncertainties with respect to the development of regulatory requirements on operating licenses and permits for our online education services in China. Failure to renew requested licenses or permits in a timely manner or obtain newly required ones due to adverse changes in regulations or policies could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Regulation Related to Advertising
All commercial advertising activities for direct or indirect introduction of products or services promoted by product business operators or service providers via a certain medium and in a certain form within the territory of PRC are applied to PRC Advertising Law, which was promulgated by the SCNPC on October 27, 1994 and was last amended on October 26, 2018. Pursuant to the PRC Advertising Law, advertisements must not contain, among other prohibited contents, terms such as “the state-level,” “the highest grade,” “the best” or other similar words. Particularly, an advertisement for education or training shall not contain any of the following items: (i) any promise relating to progression, passing examinations, or obtaining a degree or qualification certificate; (ii) any express or implied guaranteed promise relating to education or training results; (iii) use of the names or images of research institutes, academic institutions, educational institutions, industry associations, professionals or beneficiaries for recommendation or as proof. Any data, statistics, research result, summary, quotation and other quoted information used in an advertisement shall be authentic and accurate, with the source indicated. If the quoted information is subject to a scope of application or a valid period, the scope of application or valid period shall be clearly indicated. In addition, the Interim Measures for Administration of Internet Advertising, adopted by the predecessor of SAMR and effective on September 1, 2016, set forth certain compliance requirements for online advertising businesses. Advertising operators and distributors of internet advertisement must examine, verify and record identity information for advertisers, such as name, address and contact information, and maintain a verification record that is updated on a regular basis. Moreover, advertising operators and advertising distributors must examine supporting documentation provided by advertisers and verify the contents of the advertisements against supporting documents before publishing them. If the contents of advertisements are inconsistent with the supporting documents, or the supporting documents are incomplete, advertising operators and distributors must refrain from providing design, production, agency or publishing services. These measures also prohibit the following activities: (i) providing or using applications and hardware to block, filter, skip over, tamper with, or cover up lawful advertisements; (ii) using network access, network equipment and applications to disrupt the normal transmission of lawful advertisements or adding or uploading advertisements without authorization; and (iii) harming the interests of a third party by using fake statistics or traffic data. Furthermore, advertisement contents related to price are subject to Price Law of the PRC, which provides, among others, that acts such as enticing consumers or other business operators to trade with them by means of false or misleading price are strictly prohibited and such acts may subject the actors to regulatory measures including rectifications, fines, and in the worst case scenario, termination of business or revocation of business license. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—Our advertising content may subject us to penalties and other administrative actions.”
 
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Regulation Related to Intellectual Property Rights
Copyright and Software Registration
The SCNPC promulgated the PRC Copyright Law in 1990, which was last revised in 2020 and will come into effect on June 1, 2021. The amended Copyright Law extends copyright protection to internet activities, products disseminated over the internet and software products. In addition, there is a voluntary registration system administered by the China Copyright Protection Center. To address the problem of copyright infringement related to the content posted or transmitted over the internet, the National Copyright Administration, or the NCAC, and the MIIT jointly promulgated the Measures for Administrative Protection of Copyright Related to Internet on April 29, 2005, which became effective on May 30, 2005.
On December 20, 2001, the State Council promulgated Computer Software Protection Regulations which came into effect on January 1, 2002 and was last amended on January 30, 2013. These regulations are formulated for protecting the rights and interests of computer software copyright owners, encouraging the development and application of computer software and promoting the development of software business. In order to further implement the Computer Software Protection Regulations, the NCAC issued the Computer Software Copyright Registration Procedures on February 20, 2002 and amended them on June 18, 2004, which apply to software copyright registration, license contract registration and transfer contract registration. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Intellectual Property” for more details on the current situation of our software copyrights.
Patents
The SCNPC adopted the Patent Law of the PRC in 1984, which was last amended in 2020 and will come into effect on June 1, 2021. A patentable invention, utility model or design must meet three conditions, namely novelty, inventiveness and practical applicability. Patents cannot be granted for scientific discoveries, rules and methods for intellectual activities, methods used to diagnose or treat diseases, animal and plant breeds or substances obtained by means of nuclear transformation. The Patent Office under the State Intellectual Property Office is responsible for receiving, examining and approving patent applications. A patent is valid for a twenty-year term for an invention, a fifteen-year term for a design, and a ten-year term for a utility model, all starting from the application date. Except under certain specific circumstances provided by law, any third-party user must obtain consent or a proper license from the patent owner to use the patent, otherwise the use will constitute an infringement of the rights of the patent holder. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Intellectual Property” for more details on the current situation of our patents.
Trademark
Trademarks are protected by the PRC Trademark Law, which was adopted in 1982, last revised in April 2019, and will take effect in November 2019, as well as its implementation rules adopted in 2002 and revised in 2014. The Trademark Office of National Intellectual Property Administration under the SAIC handles trademark registrations and grants a protection term of ten years to registered trademarks which may be renewed for consecutive ten-year periods upon request by the trademark owner. The PRC Trademark Law has adopted a “first-to-file” principle with respect to trademark registration. Where a trademark for which a registration has been made is identical or similar to another trademark which has already been registered or been subject to a preliminary examination and approval for use on the same kind of or similar commodities or services, the application for registration of such trademark may be rejected. Any person applying for the registration of a trademark may not prejudice the existing right first obtained by others, nor may any person register in advance a trademark that has already been used by another party and has already gained a “sufficient degree of reputation” through such party’s use. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Intellectual Property” for more details on the current situation of our trademarks.
 
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Domain Name
The Administrative Measures on Internet Domain Names, or the Domain Name Measures, were promulgated by the MIIT on August 24, 2017, and came into effect on November 1, 2017. According to the Domain Name Measures, any party that has domain name root servers, and the institution for operating domain name root servers, the domain name registry and the domain name registrar within the territory of China, shall obtain a permit for this purpose from the MIIT or the communications administration of the local province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government. The registration of domain names is generally on a “first- apply-first-registration” basis and a domain name applicant will become the domain name holder upon the completion of the application procedure. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Intellectual Property” for more details on the current situation of our domain names.
Regulation Related to Employment, Social Insurance and Housing Fund
Employment
Pursuant to the PRC Labor Law effective from January 1, 1995 and last amended on December 29, 2018 and the PRC Labor Contract Law effective from January 1, 2008 and amended on December 28, 2012, a written labor contract shall be executed by an employer and an employee when the employment relationship is established, and an employer is under an obligation to sign an unlimited-term labor contract with any employee who has worked for the employer for ten consecutive years. Furthermore, if an employee requests or agrees to renew a fixed-term labor contract that has already been entered into twice consecutively, the resulting contract must have an unlimited term, with certain exceptions. The employer must also pay severance to an employee in nearly all instances where a labor contract, including a contract with an unlimited term, is terminated or expires. All employers must compensate their employees equal to at least the local minimum wage standards. All employers are required to establish a system for labor safety and sanitation, strictly abide by State rules and standards and provide employees with appropriate workplace safety training. In addition, the PRC government has continued to introduce various new labor-related regulations after the PRC Labor Contract Law. Amongst other things, new annual leave requirements mandate that annual leave ranging from 5 to 15 days is available to nearly all employees and further require that the employer compensate an employee for any annual leave days the employee is unable to take in the amount of three times his daily salary, subject to certain exceptions. Moreover, all PRC enterprises are generally required to implement a standard working time system of eight hours a day and forty hours a week, and if the implementation of such standard working time system is not appropriate due to the nature of the job or the characteristics of business operation, the enterprise may implement a flexible working time system or comprehensive working time system after obtaining approvals from the relevant authorities.
Social Insurance
The Law on Social Insurance of the PRC, which was promulgated on October 28, 2010 and amended on December 29, 2018, has established social insurance systems of basic pension insurance, unemployment insurance, maternity insurance, work injury insurance and basic medical insurance, and has elaborated in detail the legal obligations and liabilities of employers who do not comply with relevant laws and regulations on social insurance.
According to the Interim Regulations on the Collection and Payment of Social Insurance Premiums, the Regulations on Work Injury Insurance, the Regulations on Unemployment Insurance and the Trial Measures on Employee Maternity Insurance of Enterprises, enterprises in the PRC shall provide benefit plans for their employees, which include basic pension insurance, unemployment insurance, maternity insurance, work injury insurance and basic medical insurance. An enterprise must provide social insurance by going through social insurance registration with local social insurance authorities or agencies, and shall pay or withhold relevant social insurance premiums for or on behalf of employees. On July 20, 2018, the General Office of the State Council issued the Plan for Reforming the State and Local Tax Collection and Administration Systems, which stipulated that the State Administration of Taxation of the PRC, or the SAT will become solely responsible for collecting social insurance premiums.
Housing Provident Fund
According to the Administrative Regulations on the Administration of Housing Provident Fund, which was promulgated and became effective on April 3, 1999, and was amended on March 24, 2019, housing provident fund paid and deposited both by employee themselves and their unit employer shall be owned by the employees.
 
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A unit employer shall undertake registration of payment and deposit of the housing provident fund in the housing provident fund management center and, upon verification by the housing provident fund management center, open a housing provident fund account on behalf of its employees in a commissioned bank. Employers shall timely pay and deposit housing provident fund contributions in full amount and late or insufficient payments shall be prohibited. With respect to unit employers who violate the regulations hereinabove and fail to complete housing provident fund payment and deposit registrations or open housing provident fund accounts for their employees, such unit employers shall be ordered by the housing provident fund administration center to complete such procedures within a designated period. Those who fail to complete their registrations within the designated period shall be subject to a fine of between RMB10,000 and RMB50,000. When unit employers are in breach of these regulations and fail to pay deposit housing provident fund contributions in full amount as they fall due, the housing provident fund administration center shall order such unit employers to pay within a prescribed time limit, failing which an application may be made to a people’s court for compulsory enforcement.
Regulation Related to Foreign Exchange
Regulation on Foreign Currency Exchange
The principal regulations governing foreign currency exchange in China are the PRC Foreign Exchange Administration Regulations, or the Foreign Exchange Administration Regulations, which were promulgated by the State Council on January 29, 1996 and last amended on August 5, 2008. Under the Foreign Exchange Administration Regulations, Renminbi is generally freely convertible for payments of current account items, such as trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions and dividend payments, but not freely convertible for capital account items, such as direct investment, loan or investment in securities outside China, unless prior approval of State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or the SAFE, or its local counterparts has been obtained.
On February 13, 2015, SAFE promulgated the Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving the Direct Investment-related Foreign Exchange Administration Policies, or SAFE Notice 13. After SAFE Notice 13 became effective on June 1, 2015, instead of applying for approvals regarding foreign exchange registrations of foreign direct investment and overseas direct investment from SAFE, entities and individuals may apply for such foreign exchange registrations from qualified banks. The qualified banks, under the supervision of SAFE, may directly review the applications and conduct the registration.
On March 30, 2015, SAFE promulgated the Circular on Reforming the Management Approach regarding the Settlement of Foreign Capital of Foreign-invested Enterprise, or Circular 19, which came into effect on June 1, 2015. According to Circular 19, the foreign exchange capital of foreign-invested enterprises shall be subject to the Discretionary Foreign Exchange Settlement, which means that the foreign exchange capital in the capital account of a foreign-invested enterprise for which the rights and interests of monetary contribution have been confirmed by the local foreign exchange bureau (or the book-entry registration of monetary contribution by the banks) can be settled at the banks based on the actual operational needs of the foreign-invested enterprise. The proportion of Discretionary Foreign Exchange Settlement of the foreign exchange capital of a foreign-invested enterprise is temporarily set at 100%. The Renminbi converted from the foreign exchange capital will be kept in a designated account and if a foreign-invested enterprise needs to make further payment from such account, it still needs to provide supporting documents and proceed with the review process with the banks. Furthermore, Circular 19 stipulates that the use of capital by foreign-invested enterprises shall follow the principles of authenticity and self-use within the business scope of enterprises. The capital of a foreign-invested enterprise and capital in Renminbi obtained by the foreign-invested enterprise from foreign exchange settlement shall not be used for the following purposes: (i) directly or indirectly used for payments beyond the business scope of the enterprises or payments as prohibited by relevant laws and regulations; (ii) directly or indirectly used for investment in securities unless otherwise provided by the relevant laws and regulations; (iii) directly or indirectly used for granting entrust loans in Renminbi (unless permitted by the scope of business), repaying inter-enterprise borrowings (including advances by the third-party) or repaying the bank loans in Renminbi that have been sub-lent to third parties; or (iv) directly or indirectly used for expenses related to the purchase of real estate that is not for self-use (except for the foreign-invested real estate enterprises).
The Circular on Reforming and Standardizing the Foreign Exchange Settlement Management Policy of Capital Account, or Circular 16, was promulgated by SAFE on June 9, 2016 and became effective on the same date. Pursuant to Circular 16, enterprises registered in the PRC may also convert their foreign debts from foreign currency to Renminbi on a self- discretionary basis. Circular 16 provides a unified standard for the conversion of foreign exchange under capital account items (including but not limited to foreign currency capital and foreign debts) on a self-discretionary basis which applies to all enterprises registered in the PRC. Circular 16 reiterates the principle that Renminbi converted from foreign currency-denominated capital of a company may not be directly or indirectly used for purposes beyond its business scope or prohibited by PRC Laws, while such converted Renminbi shall not be provided as loans to its non-affiliated entities.
 
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On January 26, 2017, SAFE promulgated the Circular on Further Improving Reform of Foreign Exchange Administration and Optimizing Genuineness and Compliance Verification, or Circular 3, which stipulates several capital control measures with respect to the outbound remittance of profit from domestic entities to offshore entities, including (i) under the principle of genuine transaction, banks shall check board resolutions regarding profit distribution, the original version of tax filing records and audited financial statements; and (ii) domestic entities shall hold income to account for previous years’ losses before remitting the profits. Moreover, pursuant to Circular 3, domestic entities shall make detailed explanations of the sources of capital and utilization arrangements, and provide board resolutions, contracts and other proof when completing the registration procedures in connection with an outbound investment.
On October 23, 2019, the SAFE promulgated the Notice for Further Advancing the Facilitation of Cross-border Trade and Investment, or the SAFE Circular 28, which, among other things, allows all foreign-invested companies to use Renminbi converted from foreign currency-denominated capital for equity investments in China, as long as the equity investment is genuine, does not violate applicable laws, and complies with the negative list on foreign investment. On December 31, 2020, the People’s Bank of China, SAFE and other government authorities jointly issued the Circular on Further Optimizing Cross-border Renminbi Policies to Support the Stabilization of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, or the Circular 330, which, among other things, reiterates the above provisions in SAFE Circular 28. However, since the SAFE Circular 28 and Circular 330 are relatively new, it is unclear how SAFE and other government authorities as well as competent banks will carry this out in practice.
Regulation on Foreign Debt
A loan made by a foreign entity as direct or indirect shareholder in a foreign-invested enterprise is considered to be foreign debt in China and is regulated by various laws and regulations, including the Regulation of the People’s Republic of China on Foreign Exchange Administration, the Interim Provisions on the Management of Foreign Debts, the Statistical Monitoring of Foreign Debts Tentative Provisions, the Detailed Rules for the Implementation of Provisional Regulations on Statistics and Supervision of External Debt, and the Administrative Measures for Registration of Foreign Debts. Under these rules and regulations, a shareholder loan in the form of foreign debt made to a PRC entity does not require the prior approval of SAFE. However, such foreign debt must be registered with and recorded by SAFE or its local branches within 15 business days after entering into the foreign debt contract. Pursuant to these rules and regulations, the maximum amount of the aggregate of (i) the outstanding balance of foreign debts with a term not longer than one year, and (ii) the accumulated amount of foreign debts with a term longer than one year, of a foreign-invested enterprise shall not exceed the difference between its registered total investment and its registered capital, or Total Investment and Registered Capital Balance.
On January 12, 2017, the People’s Bank of China, or PBOC, promulgated the Notice of the People’s Bank of China on Full-coverage Macro-prudent Management of Cross- border Financing, or PBOC Circular 9, which sets forth an upper limit for PRC entities, including foreign-invested enterprises and domestic-invested enterprises, regarding their foreign debts. Pursuant to PBOC Circular 9, the limit of foreign debts for enterprises shall be calculated based on the following formula: the limit of foreign debt = net assets * cross-border financing leverage ratio * macro-prudent regulation parameter. “Net assets” is calculated as the net assets value stated in the relevant entity’s latest audited financial statement. The cross-border financing leverage ratio for enterprises is two (2). The macro-prudent regulation parameter is one (1). The PBOC Circular 9 does not supersede the Interim Provisions on the Management of Foreign Debts, but rather serves as a supplement to it. PBOC Circular 9 provided for a one-year transitional period, or the Transitional Period, from its promulgation date for foreign-invested enterprises, during which period foreign-invested enterprise could choose to calculate their maximum amount of foreign debt based on either (i) the Total Investment and Registered Capital Balance, or (ii) the Net Assets Limit. After the Transition Period, the maximum amount applicable to foreign-invested enterprises is to be determined by PBOC and SAFE separately. However, although the Transitional Period ended on January 10, 2018, as of the date of this annual report, neither PBOC nor SAFE has issued any new regulations regarding the appropriate means of calculating the maximum amount of foreign debt for foreign-invested enterprises. Domestic-invested enterprises have only been subject to the Net Assets Limit in calculating the maximum amount of foreign debt they may hold from the date of promulgation of PBOC Circular 9. In addition, according to PBOC Circular 9, a foreign loan must be filed with SAFE through the online filing system of SAFE after the loan agreement is signed and at least three business days prior to the borrower withdraws any amount from such foreign loan.
 
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We may not be able to obtain these government approvals or complete such registrations on a timely basis, or at all, with respect to future foreign loans provided by us to our PRC subsidiaries. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—PRC regulation of loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies and governmental control of currency conversion may delay or prevent us from using the proceeds of our initial public offering to make loans to or make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiary and consolidated variable interest entity, which could materially and adversely affect our liquidity and our ability to fund and expand our business.”
Regulation on Foreign Exchange Registration of Overseas Investment by PRC Residents
SAFE issued SAFE Circular on Relevant Issues Relating to Domestic Resident’s Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, which became effective on July 4, 2014. SAFE Circular 37 regulates foreign exchange matters in relation to the use of special purpose vehicles, or SPVs, by PRC residents or entities to seek offshore investment and financing or conduct round trip investment in China. Under SAFE Circular 37, a SPV refers to an offshore entity established or controlled, directly or indirectly, by PRC residents (including individuals and entities) for the purpose of seeking offshore financing or making offshore investment, using legitimate onshore or offshore assets or interests, while “round trip investment” refers to direct investment in China by PRC residents through SPVs, namely, establishing foreign-invested enterprises to obtain the ownership, control rights and management rights. SAFE Circular 37 provides that, before making contribution into an SPV, PRC residents are required to complete foreign exchange registration with SAFE or its local branch. SAFE promulgated the Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving the Administration of the Foreign Exchange Concerning Direct Investment in February 2015, which took effect on June 1, 2015. This notice has amended SAFE Circular 37 requiring PRC residents or entities to register with qualified banks rather than SAFE or its local branch in connection with their establishment or control of an offshore entity established for the purpose of overseas investment or financing.
PRC residents who had contributed legitimate onshore or offshore interests or assets to SPVs but had not obtained registration as required before the implementation of the SAFE Circular 37 must register their ownership interests or control in the SPVs with qualified banks. An amendment to the registration is required if there is a material change with respect to the SPV registered, such as any change of basic information (including change of the PRC residents, name and operation term), increases or decreases in investment amount, transfers or exchanges of shares, and mergers or divisions. Failure to comply with the registration procedures set forth in SAFE Circular 37 and the subsequent notice, or making misrepresentation on or failure to disclose controllers of the foreign-invested enterprise that is established through round-trip investment, may result in restrictions being imposed on the foreign exchange activities of the relevant foreign-invested enterprise, including payment of dividends and other distributions, such as proceeds from any reduction in capital, share transfer or liquidation, to its offshore parent or affiliate, and the capital inflow from the offshore parent, and may also subject relevant PRC residents or entities to penalties under PRC foreign exchange administration regulations.
We cannot assure you that all shareholders or beneficial owners of ours who are PRC residents or entities, including the beneficiaries of the trust schemes directly or indirectly holding interests in our Cayman Islands holding company, have complied with, and will in the future make, obtain or update any applicable registrations or approvals required by, SAFE regulations. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—PRC regulations relating to the establishment of offshore special purpose companies by PRC residents may subject our PRC resident beneficial owners or our PRC subsidiary to liability or penalties, limit our ability to inject capital into our PRC subsidiary, limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to increase its registered capital or distribute profits to us, or may otherwise adversely affect us.”
Regulation Related to Stock Incentive Plans
SAFE promulgated the Circular of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Issues concerning the Administration of Foreign Exchange Used for Domestic Individuals’ Participation in Equity Incentive Plans of Companies Listed Overseas, or the Stock Option Rules in February 2012, replacing the previous rules issued by SAFE in March 2007. Under the Stock Option Rules and other relevant rules and regulations, PRC residents who participate in stock incentive plan in an overseas publicly-listed company are required to register with SAFE or its local branches and complete certain other procedures. Participants of a stock incentive plan who are PRC residents must retain a qualified PRC agent, which could be a PRC subsidiary of the overseas publicly listed company or another qualified institution selected by the PRC subsidiary, to conduct the SAFE registration and other procedures with respect to the stock incentive plan on behalf of the participants. In addition, the PRC agent is required to amend the SAFE registration with respect to the stock incentive plan if there is any material change to the stock incentive plan, the PRC agent or other material changes. The PRC agent must, on behalf of the PRC residents who have the right to exercise the employee share options, apply to SAFE or its local branches for an annual quota for the payment of foreign currencies in connection with the PRC residents’ exercise of the employee share options. The foreign exchange proceeds received by the PRC residents from the sale of shares under the stock incentive plans granted and dividends distributed by the overseas listed companies must be remitted into the bank accounts in China opened by the PRC agents before distribution to such PRC residents.
 
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In addition, the SAT, has issued certain circulars concerning employee share options or restricted shares. Under these circulars, the employees working in China who exercise share options or are granted restricted shares will be subject to PRC individual income tax. The PRC subsidiaries of such overseas listed company have obligations to file documents related to employee share options or restricted shares with relevant tax authorities and to withhold individual income taxes of those employees who exercise their share options. If the employees fail to pay or the PRC subsidiaries fail to withhold their income taxes according to relevant laws and regulations, the PRC subsidiaries may face sanctions imposed by the tax authorities or other PRC government authorities.
Regulation Related to Taxation
Enterprise Income Tax
On March 16, 2007, the National People’s Congress enacted the Enterprise Income Tax Law, which was subsequently amended on February 24, 2017 and December 29, 2018, the State Council promulgated the Implementing Rules of the Enterprise Income Tax Law (or collectively, the PRC EIT Law). The PRC EIT Law applies a uniform 25% enterprise income tax rate to both foreign-invested enterprises and domestic enterprises, except where tax incentives are granted to special industries and projects. Enterprises qualifying as “High and New Technology Enterprises” are entitled to a 15% enterprise income tax rate rather than the 25% uniform statutory tax rate. The preferential tax treatment continues as long as an enterprise can retain its “High and New Technology Enterprise” status.
According to the Circular On Several Policies for Further Encouraging the Development of Software Industry and Integrated Circuit Industry promulgated by the State Council in January 2011 and the Circular On Policies of Enterprises Income Tax for Further Encouraging the Development of Software Industry and Integrated Circuit Industry, jointly promulgated by the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation in April 2012 and effective from January 1, 2011, or Circular 27, and the Circular on the Enterprise Income Tax Policies for Promoting the High-quality Development of the Integrated Circuit Industry and the Software Industry, jointly promulgated by the Ministry of Finance, State Taxation Administration, National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in November 2020 and effective from January 1, 2020, or Circular 45, an enterprise that qualifies as a “software enterprise” established after January 1, 2011, or a software enterprise, is exempt from enterprise income tax for two years beginning in the enterprise’s first profitable year followed by a tax rate of 12.5% for the succeeding three years. In December 2020, the Ministry of Finance, the State Administration of Taxation, the NDRC, and the MIIT jointly issued a circular which repealed the original preferential tax treatment applicable to certain “key software enterprise”. Such circular provides that the enterprise income tax of certain “key software enterprise” would be waived for five years since its first year of making profit and it may benefit from a preferential tax rate of 10% for the following years.
Under the PRC EIT Law, an enterprise established outside China with its “de facto management body” located in China is considered a “resident enterprise”, which means it can be treated as domestic enterprise for enterprise income tax purposes. A non-resident enterprise that does not have an establishment or place of business in China, or has an establishment or place of business in China but the income of which has no actual relationship with such establishment or place of business, shall pay enterprise income tax on its income deriving from inside China at the reduced rate of enterprise income tax of 10%. Dividends generated after January 1, 2008 and payable by a foreign-invested enterprise in China to its foreign enterprise investors are subject to a 10% withholding tax, unless any such foreign investor’s jurisdiction of incorporation has a tax treaty with China that provides for a preferential withholding arrangement.
Pursuant to the Arrangement between Mainland China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Tax Evasion on Income, the withholding tax rate in respect to the payment of dividends by a Mainland China enterprise to a Hong Kong enterprise may be reduced to 5% from a standard rate of 10% if the Hong Kong enterprise directly holds at least 25% of the Mainland China enterprise. Pursuant to the Notice of the State Administration of Taxation on the Issues concerning the Application of the Dividend Clauses of Tax Agreements, a Hong Kong resident enterprise must meet the following conditions, among others, in order to apply the reduced withholding tax rate: (i) it must be a company; (ii) it must directly own the required percentage of equity interests and voting rights in the PRC resident enterprise; and (iii) it must have directly owned such required percentage in the PRC resident enterprise throughout the 12 months prior to receiving the dividends.
 
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On February 3, 2015, the SAT issued the Announcement of the State Administration of Taxation on Several Issues Concerning the Enterprise Income Tax on Indirect Property Transfer by Non-resident Enterprises, or SAT Bulletin 7. Pursuant to SAT Bulletin 7, where a non-resident enterprise indirectly transfers properties such as equity in PRC resident enterprises without any justifiable business purposes and aims to avoid the payment of enterprise income tax, such indirect transfer must be reclassified as a direct transfer of equity in PRC resident enterprise. To assess whether an indirect transfer of PRC taxable properties has reasonable commercial purposes, all arrangements related to the indirect transfer must be considered comprehensively and factors set forth in SAT Bulletin 7 must be comprehensively analyzed in light of the actual circumstances. In addition, SAT Bulletin 7 has introduced safe harbors for internal group restructurings and the purchase and sale of equity securities through a public securities market.
On October 17, 2017, the SAT issued the Announcement of the State Administration of Taxation on Issues Concerning the Withholding of Non-resident Enterprise Income Tax at Source, or SAT Bulletin 37, which further clarifies the practice and procedure of the withholding of non-resident enterprise income tax.
Value-Added Tax
Pursuant to the Provisional Regulations on PRC Value-Added Tax and its implementation regulations, unless otherwise specified by relevant laws and regulations, any entity or individual engaged in the sales of goods, provision of processing, repairs and replacement services and importation of goods into China is generally required to pay a value-added tax, or VAT, for revenues generated from sales of products, while qualified input VAT paid on taxable purchase can be offset against such output VAT.
In November 2011, the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation promulgated the Pilot Plan for imposition of Value-Added Tax to Replace Business Tax. In March 2016, the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation further promulgated the Notice on Fully Promoting the Pilot Plan for Replacing Business Tax by Value-Added Tax, which became effective on May 1, 2016. Pursuant to the pilot plan and relevant notices, VAT is generally imposed in lieu of business tax in the modern service industries, including the value-added telecommunications services, on a nationwide basis. VAT of a rate of 6% applies to revenue derived from the provision of some modern services and VAT of a rate of 3% applies to small-scale taxpayer. Unlike business tax, a general VAT taxpayer is allowed to offset the qualified input VAT paid on taxable purchases against the output VAT chargeable on the modern services provided. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PRC has granted certain tax benefits, such as exemption of VAT, to educational services entities. Based on the Announcement on Continuously Implementing Some Tax Preferential Policies in Response to COVID-19 Epidemic (2021 No.7), the exemption period is further extended to March 31, 2021.
Regulation Related to M&A
On August 8, 2006, six PRC regulatory agencies, including the MOFCOM, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the SAT, the SAIC (currently known as the State Administration for Market Regulation of the PRC, or the SAMR), the CSRC, and the SAFE, jointly issued the Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, which became effective on September 8, 2006 and was amended on June 22, 2009. The M&A Rules, among other things, require that (i) PRC entities or individuals obtain MOFCOM approval before they establish or control an SPV overseas, provided that they intend to use the SPV to acquire their equity interests in a PRC company at the consideration of newly issued share of the SPV, or Share Swap, and list their equity interests in the PRC company overseas by listing the SPV in an overseas market; (ii) the SPV obtains MOFCOM’s approval before it acquires the equity interests held by the PRC entities or PRC individual in the PRC company by Share Swap; and (iii) the SPV obtains CSRC approval before it lists overseas. Our PRC legal counsel, Tian Yuan Law Firm, has advised us that, based on its understanding of the current PRC laws and regulations, we will not be required to submit an application to the CSRC for the approval of the listing and trading of our ADSs on the New York Stock Exchange. However, our PRC legal counsel has further advised us that there remains some uncertainties as to how the M&A Rules will be interpreted or implemented in the context of an overseas offering, and its opinions summarized above are subject to any new laws, rules and regulations or detailed implementations and interpretations in any form relating to the M&A Rules.
 
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The Anti-Monopoly Law promulgated by the SCNPC on August 30, 2007 and effective on August 1, 2008 requires that transactions which are deemed concentrations and involve parties with specified turnover thresholds must be cleared by MOFCOM before they can be completed. In addition, on February 3, 2011, the General Office of the State Council promulgated a Notice on Establishing the Security Review System for Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or Circular 6, which officially established a security review system for mergers and acquisitions of domestic enterprises by foreign investors. Further, on August 25, 2011, MOFCOM promulgated the Regulations on Implementation of Security Review System for the Merger and Acquisition of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the MOFCOM Security Review Regulations, which became effective on September 1, 2011, to implement Circular 6. Under Circular 6, a security review is required for mergers and acquisitions by foreign investors having “national defense and security” concerns and mergers and acquisitions by which foreign investors may acquire the “de facto control” of domestic enterprises with “national security” concerns. Under the MOFCOM Security Review Regulations, MOFCOM will focus on the substance and actual impact of the transaction when deciding whether a specific merger or acquisition is subject to security review. If MOFCOM decides that a specific merger or acquisition is subject to security review, it will submit it to the Inter-Ministerial Panel, an authority established under the Circular 6 led by the NDRC, and MOFCOM under the leadership of the State Council, to carry out the security review. The regulations prohibit foreign investors from bypassing the security review by structuring transactions through trusts, indirect investments, leases, loans, control through contractual arrangements or offshore transactions. On October 23, 2020, the SAMR promulgated Interim Provisions on the Review of Concentrations of Undertakings, effective on December 1, 2020, which further implement the Anti-Monopoly Law. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—The M&A Rules and certain other PRC regulations establish complex procedures for some acquisitions of Chinese companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions in China.”
Regulation Related to Anti Long-Arm Jurisdiction
The MOFCOM issued Provisions on the List of Unreliable Entities, or the MOFCOM Order No. 4 of 2020, on September 19, 2020. Pursuant to the MOFCOM Order No. 4 of 2020, the working mechanism shall, according to the investigation results and by taking the following factors into comprehensive consideration, decide whether or not to include a foreign entity concerned in the list of unreliable entities, and make an announcement on such inclusion: (i) the extent of damage caused to China’s sovereignty, security and development interests; (ii) the extent of the damage to the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises, other organizations or individuals; (iii) whether or not the international economic and trade rules are followed; and (iv) other factors that shall be taken into consideration. If a foreign entity is included in the list of unreliable entities, the working mechanism may decide to take one or more of the following measures: (i) restricting or prohibiting the foreign entity from engaging in import or export activities related to China; (ii) restricting or prohibiting the foreign entity’s investment within the territory of China; (iii) restricting or prohibiting the entry of the foreign entity’s relevant personnel or transport vehicles into the territory of China; (iv) restricting or cancelling the work permit, stay or residence qualification of the foreign entity’s relevant personnel in China; (v) imposing a fine corresponding to the seriousness of the case against the foreign entity; and (vi) other necessary measures.
On January 9, 2021, the MOFCOM promulgated the Rules on Counteracting Unjustified Extra-Territorial Application of Foreign Legislation and Other Measures, or the MOFCOM Order No. 1 of 2021. Pursuant to the MOFCOM Order No. 1 of 2021, where a citizen, legal person or other organization of China is prohibited or restricted by foreign legislation and other measures from engaging in normal economic, trade and related activities with a third State (or region) or its citizens, legal persons or other organizations, he/she/it shall truthfully report such matters to the competent department of commerce of the State Council within 30 days. The working mechanism will take following factors into overall account when assessing whether there exists unjustified extra-territorial application of foreign legislation and other measures: (i) whether international law or the basic principles of international relations are violated; (ii) potential impact on China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests; (iii) potential impact on the legitimate rights and interests of the citizens, legal persons or other organizations of China; (iv) other factors that shall be taken into account. If the working mechanism determine that there exists unjustified extra-territorial application of foreign legislation and other measures, MOFCOM may issue an injunction that the relevant foreign legislation and other measures shall not be accepted, executed, or observed. A citizen, legal person or other organization in China may apply for exemption from compliance with an injunction.
 
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C.
Organizational Structure
The following diagram illustrates our corporate structure, including our subsidiaries, our VIE and its subsidiaries, as of the date of this annual report:
 

 
 
Notes:
(1)
Shareholders of Beijing BaiJia and their respective shareholdings in Beijing BaiJia and relationship with our company are Larry Xiangdong Chen (98.28%), chairman of our board of directors and our chief executive officer, and Bin Luo (1.72%), our employee.
 
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Contractual Arrangements with Our VIE and Its Shareholders
Current PRC laws and regulations impose certain restrictions or prohibitions on foreign ownership of companies that engage in value-added telecommunication services and certain other businesses. We are a company registered in the Cayman Islands. Beijing Lexuebang, Wuhan Yuexuebang, Beijing Yuexuebang are our PRC subsidiaries and foreign-invested enterprises under PRC laws. To comply with PRC laws and regulations, we primarily conduct our business in China through Beijing BaiJia, our consolidated variable interest entity in the PRC which we refer to as our VIE in this annual report, based on a series of contractual arrangements by and among Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and its shareholders.
Our contractual arrangements with our VIE and its shareholders allow us to (i) exercise effective control over our VIE, (ii) receive substantially all of the economic benefits of our VIE, and (iii) have an exclusive call option to purchase all or part of the equity interests in our VIE when and to the extent permitted by PRC law.
As a result of our direct ownership in Beijing Lexuebang and the contractual arrangements with our VIE, we are regarded as the primary beneficiary of our VIE, and we treat our VIE and its subsidiaries as our consolidated entities under U.S. GAAP. We have consolidated the financial results of our VIE and its subsidiaries in our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP.
The following is a summary of the currently effective contractual arrangements by and among Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and its shareholders.
Agreements that provide us with effective control over our VIE
Powers of Attorney.
Pursuant to the powers of attorney executed by our VIE’s shareholders, each of them irrevocably authorized Beijing Lexuebang or its designee(s) to act on their respective behalf as exclusive agent and attorney, to the extent permitted by law, with respect to all rights of shareholders concerning all the equity interest held by each of them in our VIE, including but not limited to proposing to convene or attend shareholder meetings, signing the resolutions and minutes of such meetings, exercising all the rights as shareholders (including but not limited to voting rights, nomination rights, appointment rights, the right to receive dividends and the right to sell, transfer, pledge or dispose of all the equity held in part or in whole).
Equity Interest Pledge Agreement.
Under the equity interest pledge agreement among Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and its shareholders, our VIE’s shareholders pledged all of their equity interests of our VIE to Beijing Lexuebang as security for performance of the obligations of our VIE and its shareholders under the exclusive call option agreement, the exclusive management services and business cooperation agreement and the powers of attorney. If any of the specified events of default occurs, Beijing Lexuebang may exercise the right to enforce the pledge immediately. Beijing Lexuebang may transfer all or any of its rights and obligations under the equity interest pledge agreement to its designee(s) at any time. The agreement will remain in effect until the fulfillment of all the obligations under the exclusive call option agreement, the exclusive management services and business cooperation agreement and the powers of attorney.
We have registered the equity interest pledge under the equity interest pledge agreement in relation to our VIE with the relevant office of the State Administration for Market Regulation in accordance with the PRC Property Rights Law.
Agreements that allow us to receive economic benefits from our VIE
Exclusive Management Services and Business Cooperation Agreement.
Pursuant to the exclusive management services and business cooperation agreement among Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and the shareholders of our VIE, Beijing Lexuebang has the exclusive right to provide or designate any third-party to provide, among other things, education management consultancy services, permission of intellectual property rights, technological support and business support to our VIE and its subsidiaries. In exchange, our VIE and its subsidiaries pay service fees to Beijing Lexuebang in an amount determined by Beijing Lexuebang in its sole discretion. Without the prior written consent of Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and its subsidiaries cannot accept services provided by or establish similar cooperation relationship with any third-party. Beijing Lexuebang owns the exclusive intellectual property rights created as a result of the performance of this agreement unless otherwise provided by PRC laws or regulations. The agreement will remain effective unless unanimously agreed by the parties concerned or unilaterally terminated by Beijing Lexuebang with a written notice. Unless otherwise required by applicable PRC laws, our VIE and its shareholders do not have any right to terminate the agreement.
 
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Agreements that provide us with the call option to purchase the equity interests in our VIE
Exclusive Call Option Agreement. Under the exclusive call option agreement among Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and its shareholders, each of the shareholders of our VIE irrevocably granted Beijing Lexuebang a right to purchase, or designate a third-party to purchase, all or any part of their equity interests in our VIE at a purchase price equal to the lowest price permissible by the then-applicable PRC laws and regulations at Beijing Lexuebang’s sole and absolute discretion to the extent permitted by PRC law. The shareholders of our VIE shall promptly give all considerations they received from the exercise of the options to Beijing Lexuebang or its designee(s). Our VIE and its shareholders covenant that, without Beijing Lexuebang’s prior written consent, they will not, among other things, (i) create any pledge or encumbrance on their equity interests in our VIE; (ii) transfer or otherwise dispose of their equity interests in our VIE; (iii) change our VIE’s registered capital; (iv) amend our VIE’s articles of association; (v) sell, transfer, license or otherwise dispose of any of our VIE’s assets or allow any encumbrance of any assets, except for the disposal or the encumbrances of the assets that are treated as necessary for their daily business operations with the value of the assets involved in a single transaction not exceeding RMB100,000; (vi) cause our VIE to enter into any major contracts or terminate any material contracts to which our VIE is a party; (vii) declare or distribute dividends; (viii) terminate, liquidate or dissolve our VIE; or (ix) allow our VIE to incur, inherit, guarantee or permit any debts, except for those payables incurred in the ordinary or usual course of business but not incurred by way of borrowing. The agreement will remain effective until terminated by Beijing Lexuebang at its discretion or the entire equity interests in our VIE have been transferred to Beijing Lexuebang or its designee(s).
Spousal Consent Letters
. Pursuant to the spousal consent letters executed by the spouses of certain shareholders of our VIE, the signing spouses unconditionally and irrevocably agreed that the equity interest in our VIE held by and registered in the name of their spouses be disposed of in accordance with the exclusive call option agreement, the exclusive management services and business cooperation agreement, the equity interest pledge agreement and the powers of attorney described above, and that their spouses may perform, amend or terminate such agreements without their additional consent. Additionally, the signing spouses agreed not to assert any rights over the equity interest in our VIE held by their spouses. In addition, in the event that the signing spouses obtains any equity interest in our VIE held by their spouses for any reason, they agree to be bound by and sign any legal documents substantially similar to the contractual arrangements described above, as may be amended from time to time.
In the opinion of Tian Yuan Law Firm, our PRC legal counsel:
 
   
the ownership structures of our VIE and Beijing Lexuebang in China are not in violation of applicable PRC laws and regulations currently in effect; and
 
   
the contractual arrangements between Beijing Lexuebang, our VIE and its shareholders governed by PRC law are valid, binding and enforceable, and will not result in any violation of applicable PRC laws and regulations currently in effect.
However, our PRC legal counsel has also advised us that there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current and future PRC laws, regulations and rules. Accordingly, the PRC regulatory authorities may take a view that is contrary to the opinion of our PRC legal counsel. It is uncertain whether any new PRC laws or regulations relating to variable interest entity structures will be adopted or if adopted, what they would provide. If we or our VIE is found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations, or fail to obtain or maintain any of the required permits or approvals, the relevant PRC regulatory authorities would have broad discretion to take action in dealing with such violations or failures. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating certain of our operations in China do not comply with PRC regulations relating to the relevant industries, or if these regulations or the interpretation of existing regulations change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations”, “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure—Uncertainties exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of the newly enacted Foreign Investment Law and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance, business, financial condition and results of operations” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties with respect to the PRC legal system could adversely affect us.”
 
D.
Property, Plant and Equipment
Our principal executive offices are located in Beijing, China, where we lease premises of 67,272 square meters to support our content development activities and daily operations, with lease term ranging from one to seven years. In addition, we lease approximately 148,394 square meters, to support our daily operations, with lease terms ranging from one to nine years in 14 other provinces and municipalities throughout China. We lease all of the facilities that we currently occupy from independent third parties.
 
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We also own several plots of commercial real estate in the Economics Development Area of Zhengzhou, China, which we use for business operations. The commercial real estate include two completed office buildings and one office building in construction. The premises have a combined gross floor area of 63,273 square meters. We believe that the facilities that we currently lease and the commercial real estate that we recently purchased in Zhengzhou, China are adequate to meet our needs for the foreseeable future.
 
ITEM 4.A.
UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
Not Applicable.
 
ITEM 5.
OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
The following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations is based upon and should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and their related notes included in this annual report. This report contains forward-looking statements. See “Forward-Looking Information.” In evaluating our business, you should carefully consider the information provided under the caption “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” in this annual report. We caution you that our businesses and financial performance are subject to substantial risks and uncertainties.
 
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A.
Operating Results
Key Factors Affecting Our Results of Operations
Our results of operations and financial condition are affected by the general factors driving China’s online education industry. We have benefited from China’s overall economic growth, significant urbanization rate, and higher per capita disposable income of urban households in China, which has allowed many households in China to spend more on education. We have also benefited from the increasing internet penetration in China. At the same time, our results are subject to changes in the regulatory regime governing China’s education industry, particularly uncertainties relating to online education services. The PRC government regulates various aspects of our business and operations, including the qualification, licensing or filing requirements for entities that provide online education services and limitations on foreign investments in the online education industry. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—We face uncertainties with respect to the development of regulatory requirements on operating licenses and permits for our online education services in China. Failure to renew requested licenses or permits in a timely manner or obtain newly required ones due to adverse changes in regulations or policies could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations” and “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Uncertainties exist in relation to new legislation or proposed changes in the PRC regulatory requirements regarding online private education, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
While our business is influenced by general factors affecting the online education industry in China, our results of operations are also directly affected by certain company specific factors, including the following major factors:
Our ability to continuously increase paid course enrollments
Our net revenues primarily consist of course fees from our students. Our growth in net revenues is primarily driven by increase in our paid course enrollments. Our paid course enrollments increased from 552 thousand in 2018 to 2,187 thousand in 2019 and further to 5,871 thousand in 2020. We believe providing an effective learning experience is critical to attracting new students and increasing our paid course enrollments. We are committed to providing high quality course offerings to our students and will continue to enhance our students’ learning experience through enriching our course offerings, enhancing our brand reputation and refining our technology. We will continue to improve our ability to convert sales leads into paid course enrollments cost-effectively.
Our ability to further increase our course fees
Our net revenues are also affected by the level of tuition fees we charge and average gross billings per paid course enrollment for our
K-12
courses, as well as foreign language, professional and admission courses. Growth in the level of tuition fees we charge and average gross billing per paid course enrollment is dependent on our increased ability to charge premium fees for our course offerings. Our ability to charge premium pricing is affected by the quality and effectiveness of our course offerings, the overall demand for our courses, and prices and availability of competing courses. Between 2018 and 2019, as well as between 2019 and 2020, we generally raised the standard tuition fee level we charged for our
K-12
courses, as well as our foreign language, professional and admission courses. The year-over-year increase in the medium level of standard tuition fees for our elementary, middle and high school courses from 2019 to 2020 was 7%. Our pricing strategy with respect to our
K-12
courses focuses on setting and regularly increasing the standard tuition fees we charge for each hour of lesson delivered. Our pricing strategy with respect to our foreign language, professional and admission courses focuses on raising the total tuition fees we charge for each course, through the introduction of premium courses or upgrading existing courses. We will continue to monitor these factors and aim to further increase our pricing through regular review.
Our ability to manage our costs and operating expenses effectively
Our operating margins depend on our ability to control our costs and realize additional operation leverage as we expand. A substantial majority of our cost of revenues consists of staff costs paid to our instructors and tutors. Historically, we have benefited from the significant scalability of our business model and have been able to control teacher costs at a relatively low level despite the significant growth in our net revenues. Whether we can continue to control our teacher costs in the future depends on, to a significant extent, our ability to further realize the economic benefits from the scalability of our business model and our effectiveness in competing for top teaching talents in China.
 
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We depend on our ability to sell and market our course offerings in a cost-effective manner to maintain and improve our operating margins. Selling expenses have historically been the largest item of our total operating expenses. Our selling expenses are primarily composed of compensation to our personnel involved in sales and marketing, selling expenses relating to our online and mobile marketing, and branding expenses. Our ability to maintain or lower our selling expenses as a percentage of net revenues depends on our ability to improve sales and marketing efficiency and leverage our existing brand value and recognition of our superior teaching quality to achieve
word-of-mouth
referrals. We may also incur increased research and development and general and administrative expenses due to the expansion of our course offerings.
We offer substantially all of our courses online in a live format. Our future success depends on the development and application of relevant technologies to meet our demand for sufficient network capacity and to continue to enhance our proprietary live broadcasting technology, all in a cost-effective manner. While we continue to focus on our live broadcasting technology development, we plan to devote more resources to the development of our technology infrastructure and software upgrades to increase our operational efficiency.
Impact of
COVID-19
on Our Operations and Financial Performance
All of our revenues and workforce are concentrated in China. In response to the intensifying efforts to contain the spread of
COVID-19,
the Chinese government took a number of actions, which included extending the Chinese New Year holiday, quarantining individuals suspected of having
COVID-19,
asking residents in China to stay at home and to avoid public gathering, among other things.
COVID-19
has also resulted in temporary closure of many corporate offices and schools across China, and disrupted school schedules significantly. Consequently, the
COVID-19
pandemic may adversely affect our business operations, financial condition and operating results for 2021, including but not limited to negative impact to our total revenues, and downward adjustments or impairment to our
non-current
assets.
There remain significant uncertainties surrounding the
COVID-19
pandemic and its further development as a global pandemic. Hence, the extent of the business disruption and the related impact on our financial results and outlook for 2021 cannot be reasonably estimated at this time.
As of December 31, 2020, we had cash and cash equivalents of RMB355.2 million (US$54.4 million) and short-term investments of RMB7,331.3 million (US$1,123.6 million). Our short-term investments mainly include investments in financial products issued by banks, which contain a fixed or variable interest rate with original maturities of less than twelve months, which are highly liquid. We believe this level of liquidity is sufficient to successfully navigate an extended period of uncertainty. See also “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—Our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by the ongoing
COVID-19
pandemic.”
Key Line Items and Specific Factors Affecting Our Results of Operations
Net Revenues
In 2018, 2019 and 2020, we derived substantially all of our net revenues from the course fees that we charge to our students. We generally collect course fees in advance, which we initially record as deferred revenues. We recognize revenues proportionally as the classes are delivered. The majority of our courses are typically delivered within a period from 1 month to 6 months and all of our
K-12
courses are delivered in less than 60 classes. For some courses, we continue to provide students with 12 months to 36 months access to the
pre-recorded
audio-video courses after the online live courses are delivered. The related revenue for playback is recognized proportionally over the playback period. The playback revenue represents a relatively small portion of the total course fees. The following table sets forth a breakdown of our total net revenues by amounts and percentages for the periods presented:
 
    
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2018
    
2019
    
2020
 
    
RMB
    
%
    
RMB
    
%
    
RMB
    
US$
    
%
 
                  
(in thousands, except for percentages)
               
Net revenues:
                    
K-12
courses
     290,890        73.2        1,706,538        80.7        6,237,399        955,923        87.5  
Foreign language, professional and admission courses
     71,732        18.1        378,265        17.9        871,856        133,618        12.2  
Other services
     34,684        8.7        30,052        1.4        15,489        2,374        0.3  
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Total
  
 
397,306
 
  
 
100.0
 
  
 
2,114,855
 
  
 
100.0
 
  
 
7,124,744
 
  
 
1,091,915
 
  
 
100.0
 
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
 
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Our other revenues in 2018, 2019 and 2020 consisted primarily of course fees from our offline business consulting courses and service fees for our membership-based service platform. We started transition from a membership-based service platform connecting teachers and students to our current online live large-class business model in March 2017. Under our earlier membership-based business model, we generated revenues, on a net basis, from teachers in the form of membership fees. Teachers who had paid our membership fees may join our online platform and market their courses to students on our online platform. We stopped providing membership-based services to teachers under our earlier business model in August 2018. Our offline business consulting courses target the principals and other officers of private education institutions who want to improve their management skills.
Cost of revenues
Our cost of revenues primarily consists of performance-based salaries to instructors and total compensation to tutors. We recorded cost of revenues of RMB142.8 million, RMB535.9 million and RMB1,762.5 million (US$270.1 million) in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. Our cost of revenues also includes costs for teaching materials, rental expenses for our office space and server and labor costs. We expect our cost of revenues to increase in absolute amounts in the foreseeable future as we serve more students and offer more courses.
Operating expenses
Our operating expenses consist primarily of selling expenses, and to a lesser extent, research and development expenses and general and administrative expenses.
Selling expenses
. We recorded selling expenses of RMB121.5 million, RMB1,040.9 million and RMB5,816.2 million (US$891.4 million) in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. Our selling expenses primarily consist of expenses relating to our marketing and brand promotion activities, compensation to our personnel involved in sales and marketing expenses and other miscellaneous expense. We expect our selling expenses to increase in absolute amounts in the foreseeable future as we seek to further grow our paid course enrollments.
Research and development expenses
. We recorded research and development expenses of RMB74.1 million, RMB212.2 million and RMB734.5 million (US$112.6 million) in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. Research and development expenses consist primarily of compensation to our education content development personnel, and to our technology development personnel, and to a lesser extent, rental expenses for office space and others.
General and administrative expenses
. We recorded general and administrative expenses of RMB39.8 million, RMB110.1 million and RMB566.6 million (US$86.8 million) in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. Our general and administrative expenses consist primarily of payroll and related expenses for employees involved in general corporate functions and administrative personnel. We expect our general and administrative expenses to increase in absolute amounts in the future as our business grows and as we incur increased costs related to our expanding business operations and compliance with our reporting obligations as a public company under U.S. securities laws.
Taxation
We had income tax expense of RMB2.6 million and RMB17.0 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and income tax benefit of RMB34.6 million (US$5.3 million) in 2020. We are subject to various rates of income tax under different jurisdictions. The following summarizes major factors affecting our applicable tax rates in the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and the Mainland China.
Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands currently levies no taxes on individuals or corporations based upon profits, income, gains or appreciation and there is no taxation in the nature of inheritance tax or estate duty. There are no other taxes likely to be material to us levied by the government of the Cayman Islands except for stamp duties which may be applicable on instruments executed in, or brought within the jurisdiction of the Cayman Islands. In addition, the Cayman Islands does not impose withholding tax on dividend payments.
 
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Hong Kong
Under the current Hong Kong Inland Revenue Ordinance, from the year of assessment 2018/2019 onwards, the subsidiaries in Hong Kong are subject to profits tax at the rate of 8.25% on assessable profits up to HK$2,000,000; and 16.5% on any part of assessable profits over HK$2,000,000. Under the Hong Kong tax laws, we are exempted from the Hong Kong income tax on our foreign-derived income. In addition, payments of dividends from our Hong Kong subsidiary to us are not subject to any Hong Kong withholding tax. No provision for Hong Kong profits tax was made as we had no estimated assessable profit that was subject to Hong Kong profits tax during 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Mainland China
Generally, our PRC onshore subsidiaries, VIE and its subsidiaries are subject to enterprise income tax on their taxable income in China at a statutory rate of 25%. The enterprise income tax is calculated based on the entity’s global income as determined under PRC tax laws and accounting standards.
Normally, our educational services are subject to VAT at the rate of 3% for
small-scale-VAT-payer
entities or at the rate of 6% for
general-VAT-payer
entities in accordance with PRC law. The PRC has granted certain tax benefits due to
COVID-19.
As a result, our educational services were not subject to any VAT from January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, and our
small-scale-VAT-payer entities
are subject to preferential VAT rate of 1% during March 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021.
Beijing BaiJia Technology Co., Ltd., our VIE, qualified as national high and new technology enterprise, or HNTE, in August 2017, which reduced its enterprise income tax rate to 15%. Its HNTE qualification has been renewed and set to expire by December 2023.
Beijing GaoTuYunJi Education Technology Co., Ltd. qualified as a HNTE during the year ended December 31, 2019 and accordingly were entitled to a 15% preferential tax rate from 2019 to 2021.
Beijing Lexuebang also qualified as a HNTE during the year ended December 31, 2019. Furthermore, Beijing Lexuebang obtained the Software Enterprise Certificate and adopted exemption from enterprise income tax for 2019 and 2020, and 12.5% from 2021 to 2023.
Wuhan Yuexuebang obtained the Software Enterprise Certificate and adopted exemption from enterprise income tax for 2020 and 2021, and 12.5% from 2022 to 2024.
If our holding company in the Cayman Islands or any of our subsidiaries outside of China were deemed to be a “resident enterprise” under the PRC Enterprise Income Tax Law, it would be subject to enterprise income tax on its worldwide income at a rate of 25%. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—If we are classified as a PRC resident enterprise for PRC income tax purposes, such classification could result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our
non-PRC
shareholders or the ADS holders.”
Critical Accounting Policies, Judgment and Estimates
We prepare our financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, which requires our management to make judgment, estimates and assumptions. We continually evaluate these judgments, estimates and assumptions based on our own historical experience, knowledge and assessment of current business and other conditions, our expectations regarding the future based on available information and various assumptions that we believe to be reasonable, which together form our basis for making judgments about matters that are not readily apparent from other sources. Since the use of estimates is an integral component of the financial reporting process, our actual results could differ from those estimates. Some of our accounting policies require a higher degree of judgment than others in their application.
The selection of critical accounting policies, the judgments and other uncertainties affecting application of those policies and the sensitivity of reported results to changes in conditions and assumptions are factors that should be considered when reviewing our financial statements. We believe the following accounting policies involve the most significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of our financial statements. You should read the following description of critical accounting policies, judgments and estimates in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and other disclosures included in this annual report.
 
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Revenue Recognition
We recognize revenue to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services, in accordance with ASC Topic 606 Revenue from Contracts with Customers (“Topic 606”). Our revenue is reported net of discount, value added tax and related surcharges. The primary sources of our revenues are as follows:
Online tutoring services
We offer various types of integrated online tutoring services covering a wide spectrum of topics and targets students from broad age groups through our diverse offerings of
K-12,
foreign language, professional and admission courses. Our live interactive tutoring services consists of several components, including online live classes as well as other activities during the online period including teaching material, quizzes before, during and after the classes, summary of lessons after each class and interactions with both other students and instructors during the period. Different service components are highly interdependent and interrelated in the context of the contract with the live interactive tutoring services. Therefore, we have determined that the live interactive tutoring services represents one performance obligation. The service period for a majority of the live interactive tutoring services is less than six months.
Once the live interactive tutoring services is complete, we also offer the customer a content playback service. In the content playback service, the customer has unlimited access to online
pre-recorded
audio-video courses for a specified period ranging from one to three years. No other interactions or activities are provided during the playback period. For contracts that provide both the live interactive tutoring service and the content playback service, we determined that the live interactive tutoring service and content playback service are two separate performance obligations, as these two deliverables are distinct in that customers can benefit from each service on its own and our promises to deliver the services are separately identifiable from each other in the contract.
Tutoring fees are collected in advance. We determine that there is not a significant financing component based on the nature of the service being offered and the purpose of the payment terms. We charge a single upfront amount, not with the primary purpose of obtaining financing from the students but, instead, to maximize profitability, taking into consideration the risks associated with providing the service. We offer refunds for any remaining classes to students who withdraw from the course. The refund is equal to the amount related to the undelivered class. We determine the transaction price to be earned by estimating the refund liability based on historical refund ratio on a portfolio basis using the expected value method, and allocates the tutoring fee excluding the estimate for refund liability to each performance obligation using the relative stand-alone selling price. We determine the stand-alone selling prices using an expected cost plus margin methodology. Revenue related to the live interactive tutoring service is recognized proportionately as the online classes are delivered, as we concluded that the delivery of each online class represents a faithful depiction of when the services are provided to the students. Revenue related to the right to access the content playback is recognized proportionally over the playback period, as we concluded that the content playback service represents a stand ready obligation to provide the playback services and the customer simultaneously receives and consumes the benefits as we provide such services throughout the playback period.
In some promotion activities, we grant sales incentives, including cash coupon and free class, to students who made qualified course purchases. Those students can redeem the cash coupon in the next purchase as part of payment, or select to enroll in a new course free of charge, prior to the incentive’s expiration. The cash coupon and free class expire no more than eight months from when they were issued. We determined that the cash coupon and/or free course granted to existing students are material rights. As a result, a portion of sales price received on students making qualified purchases is allocated to the sales incentives granted based on the relative standalone selling prices. The selling price of cash coupon is estimated based on the discount amount and the probability of redemption. Revenue allocated to sales incentives is recorded as deferred revenue until redemption or expiration. Once the coupon or free class is redeemed, revenue will be recognized based on the revenue recognition policy discussed above. Students may not always redeem cash coupon or take the free class offered before the expiration of the sales incentive. Therefore, we expect to be entitled to a breakage amount in deferred revenue related to the incentives. We estimate the breakage based on historical students’ usage and recognizes the estimated breakage as revenue in proportion to the pattern of incentives exercised by students. The assessment of estimating breakage is updated on a quarterly basis. Changes in estimated breakage is accounted for by adjusting deferred revenue to reflect the remaining incentive rights expected to be exercised.
 
73

Other services
Other service revenues are primarily derived from (i) membership-based service and (ii) offline business consulting courses.
We provided membership-based services before the end of the first quarter of 2019, which consisted of providing a platform connecting training institutions or individual teachers and students. Training institutions or individual teachers who paid the membership fees were able to join our online platform and market their courses to prospective students. Membership fees were primarily fixed and no contractual membership fee refunds were provided to the training institutions or individual teachers. The membership services mainly provided training institutions or individual teachers with display of an online storefront on our platforms and access to online account management system, which were accounted for as a single performance obligation as the membership services were highly integrated. These service fees were paid in advance for a specific contracted service period and the revenues were recognized proportionally over the service period, typically 12 months, as we concluded that the membership service represented a stand ready obligation to provide the services while the member simultaneously receives and consumes the benefits of such services throughout the contract period.
We also offer offline business consulting courses targeting principals and other officers of private education institutions who want to improve their management skills. No contractual service fee refund is provided to the course participants. Course fees are collected in advance and the revenues, net of any discounts, are recognized proportionally over the service period, which is generally less than a year, as the classes are generally delivered evenly through the course period.
Our contract liability consists of deferred revenue. Our refund liability represents tutoring fees collected which we expect to refund back to our customers as a result of our refund policy.
Consolidation of Variable Interest Entity
Our consolidated financial statements include the financial statements of GSX Techedu Inc, its subsidiaries, its VIE and the VIE’s subsidiaries. All profits, transactions and balances among GSX Techedu Inc, its subsidiaries, its VIE and the VIE’s subsidiaries have been eliminated upon consolidation.
Beijing Lexuebang Network Technology Co., Ltd. (“Beijing Lexuebang”), our wholly-owned PRC subsidiary, has gained control over Beijing BaiJia Technology Co., Ltd (“Beijing BaiJia”) and its subsidiaries that most significantly affect our economic performance through a series of contractual arrangements. Beijing Lexuebang bears the economic risks and receives the economic benefits of Beijing BaiJia and its subsidiaries through these contractual agreements with Beijing BaiJia and/or its nominee shareholders, including:
 
   
Exclusive Management Services and Business Cooperation Agreement
 
   
Equity Interest Pledge Agreement
 
   
Exclusive Call Option Agreement
 
   
Powers of Attorney
 
   
Spousal Consent Letters
Based on the advice of our PRC legal counsel, we believe above-mentioned contractual agreements are currently legally enforceable under PRC law and regulations.
 
74

As a result of these contractual arrangements, we believe we are entitled to direct the activities that most significantly affect the economic performance of Beijing BaiJia, and receive the economic benefits of Beijing BaiJia. In making the conclusion that we are the primary beneficiary of Beijing BaiJia, we believe our rights under the exclusive call option agreements and powers of attorney have reinforced our abilities to direct the activities most significantly impacting Beijing BaiJia’s economic performance. We also believe that this ability to exercise control ensures that Beijing BaiJia would continue to execute and renew service agreements and pay service fees to us. By charging service fees, and by ensuring that service agreements are executed and renewed indefinitely, we have the rights to receive substantially all of the economic benefits from Beijing BaiJia. Accordingly, as the primary beneficiary of Beijing BaiJia and in accordance with U.S. GAAP, we consolidate its financial results and assets and liabilities in our consolidated financial statements.
As advised by our PRC legal counsel, our corporate structure in China complies with all existing PRC laws and regulations, and the above contractual agreements are valid, binding and enforceable under PRC laws. However, our PRC legal counsel has also advised us that as there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of PRC laws and regulations, and we cannot assure you that the PRC government would agree that our corporate structure or any of the above-mentioned contractual arrangements comply with current or future PRC laws or regulations. PRC laws and regulations governing the validity of these contractual arrangements are uncertain and the relevant government authorities may have broad discretion in interpreting these laws and regulations.
Income Taxes
Current income taxes are provided for in accordance with the laws of the relevant tax authorities. Deferred income taxes are recognized when temporary differences exist between the tax bases of assets and liabilities and their reported amounts in the financial statements. Net operating loss carry forwards and credits are applied using enacted statutory tax rates applicable to future years. Deferred tax assets are reduced by a valuation allowance when, in the opinion of management, it is
more-likely-than-not
that a portion of or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. The impact of an uncertain income tax position is recognized at the largest amount that is
more-likely-than-not
to be sustained upon audit by the relevant tax authority. An uncertain income tax position will not be recognized if it has less than a 50% likelihood of being sustained. Interest and penalties on income taxes will be classified as a component of the provisions for income taxes.
Share-based Compensation
We measure the cost of employee share options based on the grant date fair value of the award and recognize compensation cost over the period during which an employee is required to provide services in exchange for the award, which generally is the vesting period. For the graded vesting share options, we recognize the compensation cost over the requisite service period for each separately vesting portion of the award as if the award is, in substance, multiple awards. When no future services are required to be performed by the employee in exchange for an award of equity instruments, the cost of the award is expensed on the grant date. Our company elects to recognize forfeitures when they occur.
In determining the value of share options prior to our initial public offering in June 2019, we have used the binomial option pricing model, with assistance from an independent third-party valuation firm. Under this option pricing model, certain assumptions, including the risk-free interest rate, the expected dividends on the underlying ordinary shares, and the expected volatility of the price of the underlying shares for the contractual term of the options are required in order to determine the fair value of our options. The fair value of an option award was estimated on the date of grant using the following key assumptions:
 
    
Grant Date
    
2018
  
March 31, 2019
Risk-free rate of interest
(1)
  
3.42%-3.78%
   3.20%
Volatility
(2)
  
53.4%-56.2%
   54.60%
Dividend yield
(3)
   —      —  
Exercise multiples
(4)
   2.2   
2.2-2.8
Life of options (years)
(5)
   10    10