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A civil statute of limitations applies to a non-criminal legal action, including a tort or contract case.[5] If the statute of limitations expires before a lawsuit is filed, the defendant may raise the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense to seek dismissal of the charge. The exact time period depends on both the state and the type of claim (contract claim, personal injury, fraud etc.). Most fall in the range of one to ten years, with two to three years being most common.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_limitations

Does the statute of limitations apply if the company to be sued wasn't operating in the U.S.?

Let's say that a company in China wasn't located in the U.S. for 12 years and 12 years before it created a headquarters in the U.S., the plaintiff was victim of a contract breach from that company, can the the plaintiff still sue the company because the company could not be sued before that even if the statute of limitation would suggest the company cannot be sued anymore? Assume the plaintiff is in the United States in California.

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Does the statute of limitations apply if the company to be sued wasn't operating in the U.S.?

If the company is not operating in the USA then, of course, US law does not apply to it. There may be statutes of limitations where it is operating but the US ones are irrelevant.

However, the company you describe which is entering into a contract with a California resident to provide goods or services in California is most definitely operating in California. The fact that it doesn't have a physical presence in California doesn't mean it's not operating there.

If you wish to bring an action in California, the Californian statute of limitations will most definitely apply and time will run from when the breach of contract occurred.

You are suffering under the misapprehension that you can't sue a foreign company in a US court

You can.

It's technically more complicated and there can be disputes over jurisdiction, the appropriate venue and which law applies but assuming all of that can be managed and a Californian court has jurisdiction and considers itself the most appropriate venue (it may be that a Chinese court is more appropriate) then there's no reason why you can't sue a foreign company with no physical presence in California.

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