How To Buy Goods from Mainland China


China is not called the world’s biggest exporter for nothing. Simply go to your nearest supermarket and you will surely see at least one of their products. The reputation of Chinese firms as manufacturers is not yet at par with Japan or South Korea, but you can never flaw them for variety. China produces everything under the sun, from food products to modern gizmos. Things get even more interesting when you buy things directly on the mainland. It is just a question of how, though.

Assuming you live overseas, the internet provides a lot of firms selling interesting Chinese products online. Here is a list of things to learn if it is your first time to purchase things from an overseas seller.

First, Check Your Government’s Import Regulations

This is probably the most important factor to consider in ordering products from mainland China. If you think of purchasing a drone or a humanoid robot, ask your respective agency first, before you order a unit online. Most nations seize certain products at the point of entry, for security reasons. Some products require special permits from your country (as in the case of ammunitions), before you can complete a transaction. Some certain animal and plant species are not allowed to be purchased overseas, if these are endangered or are not certified to be free from diseases. Of course, you may go through underground markets, but you also compromise your safety in that regard. Moreover, it is punishable by law, so it is advisable for you not to consider this option.

Import duties, value added taxes and other charges levied by customs must also be considered in this case. You should set an ample allowance to your budget if you really want to buy something overseas. In some instances, these can go up to 25% of the selling price of what you bought and can cause shocks to your budget. You must also check the value of what you order and reasons for your use, as there are certain provisions which would restrict the products in the customs area.

Pick a Legit Seller


It seems that not only the quality of Chinese products receives a mixed view. News about victims complaining about some con Chinese businessmen are old tales too. The key for having a successful purchase from this country is to know which sites are legit sellers. There are two types of stores which export their products – marketplaces and standalone online selling sites.

Searching for reliable sellers from marketplaces is quite easy. Just look for the comment/feedback section of these firms and you will know who’s real or fake. You should also discern which are spam comments and which are not. DHGate and AliExpress are some of the good websites you can purchase your gadgets from. Well, the latter has accumulated a good reputation in delivering goods faithfully to its customers, so it’s more recommended between the two.

If you want to look for sellers aside from these two, make sure to rely on the customer feedbacks on these firms. You might also search for the seller’s rating points before you buy. Moreover, do not forget to engage with a good conversation with the seller (ask for vital information about the transaction and the way to contact him). You can ask for images of the stock if you are still not convinced.

I guess placing orders in standalone online selling sites is more preferable. Not only are they akin to United States’ Amazon, but their reliability is also much higher. These sites have deals with manufacturers, so your chances to get a counterfeit in your mail are much lower. You can also buy products with good discounts marketplaces normally do not provide. However, it should be noted that these sites only specialize in certain products, unlike their American counterparts.

Online shops like Banggood, GearBest, TinyDeal and Chinavasion have been around for long. Banggood is the site to go if you want to look for the diversity of products being offered. GearBest offers the best prices among Chinese sites. On the other hand, TinyDeal and Chinavasion are revered for the sheer length of their existence in the online community. There are other sites which are also legit, but hitting the feedback in your search engine must be done first, to verify their reputation.

In picking sellers, you should also understand that some of them might not be that proficient in English (this is true in case you want to order goods from Asia), so it is much better to communicate via emails than in spoken language. Also, expect to not be able to order only a single good whenever you buy something from China, especially when you are ordering directly from a manufacturer. These companies have their minimums (to cover exports related fixed costs), so make sure you send an inquiry before you place an order.

Assuming the transactions went smoothly, do not forget to ask the following documents from your vendor. Missing any of these documents will have your good seized by customs.

First, the seller must furnish a commercial invoice which contains the declared value of items. This invoice must also have information about the seller and his address. The items inside the cargo must be described accurately, because these are the basis of the classification number and the customs duty, which will be levied on your product. You might think to wrongly declare the goods you ordered, but officers do random inspection at times. If you are caught, your goods will be seized and you will pay a hefty fine. Some sellers misrepresent costs to prevent your order from being stolen. Others want to give buyers a chance to pay lower duties. Whatever their reasons are, this deed is illegal. Just place an insurance in the item you bought overseas. The next document is a packing list, which itemizes what you are importing. The items described in the said manifesto must match the ones you ordered.

The other one is a bill of lading, which entails the shipping terms of what you ordered. Lastly, the seller should also furnish a detail sheet, which contains how these products are manufactured and the country of origin. Just note these are the custom’s minimum requirements in placing an order overseas. Some nations are stricter than others.

In terms of payment, most, if not all, manufacturing firms are expected to be paid through wire transfer. Worry not, as you normally do not have to pay the full amount at order date. Typically, upfront money is immediately given, to cover the initial costs and you can pay the remainder once your goods have been shipped. Sometimes, an escrow fund is held by a seller to prevent payment issues. These transactions go faster once you have gained the trust of the manufacturer.

Choose the Right Shipping Method

Discuss with your seller how your purchase will be shipped. If you are not keen on doing this, chances are you’re going to pay for transportation charges whose price far outweigh your product. Do some research on the reputation of common couriers in your area. If it’s free shipment, it may not be really cheap in the long run, for your goods are more susceptible to theft and other logistical problems.  Assuming your seller does not want to make an arrangement with you in terms of shipment, simply cancel the transaction and look for other amenable vendors. If he offers a product whose specs are what you need, you might hire a customs broker in this regard.

Some Chinese stores offer free shipment in order to accommodate global customers. However, global post has a mixed reception among the customers, as some of the products they ordered weren’t in good shape anymore when they arrived. In addition, free shipment also takes a while before you receive what you ordered. This shipping method is the most appropriate if you are ordering goods with relatively low value. Fortunately, Chinese firms have good reputation of packaging their products, so free shipment becomes more attractive. Technically, this is not really free per se, as you will still have to pay for some processing fees in the customs area.

If you are living in the United States and you ought for a paid delivery, you may choose from International Postal Service (IPS), courier shipping or freight shipping. These three have their own set of pros and cons, so you must carefully assess each of these suit your needs.

Basically, your goods are treated akin to a mail, if you opt these to be delivered via IPS. Once your package lands in your country, the postal office then processes it for clearance. In case of United States, an official will prepare the necessary paperwork to import your good, assess it for duties and release it for delivery if it has value of less than $2,000 and is not a restricted product. Packages with a declared value of less than $200 are generally cleared without additional paperwork. If a duty is owed, an additional processing fee will be charged and you will have to pay at the post office where your good was delivered. This is the most economical among the three, because it is a government service. However, lost goods are very hard to find, if lost using this method, as your order does not have a tracking number. You have to contact the seller in this case and see if he can trace your shipment. Filling up the necessary paper works also causes inconvenience.

Courier shipment is perhaps known by many, thanks to their speedy service. They have customs brokers who negotiate directly with customs officers. They usually do the formal process and, after, they bill you for their services. Should you choose this method of shipping, expect a seamless delivery from China to the door of your house. If you are ordering something expensive, just use expedited shipment (FedEx, DHL, or your local courier), to be sure. Remember that anything over $500 can be counted as hefty, granted how China prices its products. However, this is also the most expensive method among the three, due to additional charges and fees you have to pay.

Lastly, you can choose to ship goods by freight, as this is cheaper than courier delivery. You also have the option to deliver it by air or by sea.

Shipment by air is the easiest option if you want to have your goods delivered as fast as possible. This is particularly expensive, though. You might spend as much as $1,600 on merely transporting your product. Shipping by sea gives you an advantage of delivering a large volume of goods and is actually up to 6 times cheaper than using an airplane. However, choosing this form of delivery tends to be very slow.

If you can handle the process of having your goods cleared by customs, this is the best choice, because it is relatively cheap. However, you must also give clear instructions to the freight company, as your order might be left in the dock of shipping ports.

Be Patient


Believe it or not, China rivals Japan and South Korea in terms of product innovation. While Chinese firms are marred by imitations and counterfeits, some are original enough to gain your attention. That said, do not let your excitement turn to impatience. Remember, your product is not the only one being shipped at that moment. Calling your shipping courier every now and then is not a good idea. Well, if you are that excited, you can ask for the tracking number of your gizmo, as some shipping companies post online the shipping status of transported goods.

Moreover, don’t act overexcited when at customs, if you want to avert unnecessary interest coming from their officers. You are ordering something from overseas so expect that the gizmo you ordered will not be immediately available to you. If the customs seize your goods, you can always file a notice of claim in court. If you win, then you will have your claim. Assuming your order has already perished or was destroyed, you can ask for due compensation.

Other Considerations

Probably you have seen a lot of Chinese products around you by this point. For better or for worse, China has become the world’s largest exporter since 2009. Perhaps you will reach a point where the majority of what you see is stamped “Made in China”.  While its vast offering of products is perceived as inconsistent in terms of quality, no one can deny that this nation has everything under the sun. Some Chinese companies, like Baidu and Lenovo, went on to becoming staple names in their respective industries.

Many of the Chinese firms still resort to their style of imitating products, but still manage to be fascinating on their own. Lack of strong branding aside, I am sure this country has a lot of gizmos you will enjoy.

Have you ever ordered products from China? How was your experience? Tell us in the comments!


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