The next time you take a client in China out to dinner, you may want to bring your attorney along. You might need his help ordering.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is a cornerstone of antibribery legislation in the United States and increasingly around the world, as prosecutors here try to extend the scope of the law. China, however, is proving to be especially difficult territory for FCPA compliance.

The FCPA forbids a U.S. company—or a U.S. citizen, or a non-citizen working for a company that trades on U.S. stock exchanges—from bribing foreign officials to gain business. But many large Chinese companies ...