How to find suppliers in China

The local Chinese industry is at an all-time high, manufacturing all kinds of products from electronics to plastics to even vehicles. Due to low labor costs and incentivized trading, manufacturing businesses in China have boomed and are exporting products all over the world. This provides an opportunity for local retailers and online ecommerce stores to expand their offerings by a great deal.

However, the success of an ecommerce business boils down to the quality of product and the commitment of its supplier(s). If you want to set up a drop-shipping business, or already have an ecommerce store and need to handle volume or variety, getting in touch with the right suppliers in China will be crucial.

In this article, we will talk about how to find and evaluate Chinese suppliers.

Where to look for suppliers?

There are many ways you can get in touch with suppliers. If you have a small business and can’t (or don’t want to) visit China, there are many online sourcing channels available. On the other hand, if you can visit the country, trade shows are your best bet. You will find some local brokers available as well that will connect you to a supplier or shipping network, but they often keep a hefty middle-man cut.

Online sourcing

There are many online sourcing platforms available that connect buyers and sellers. Some work B2B while others deal with customers directly (B2C).

  1. is China’s largest online ecommerce, retail and B2B marketplace and is indeed the first choice for anyone looking to bulk-import products from China. You can find anything on this website from electronics to home and lifestyle products to car parts and more. If you need to bulk order anything, chances are that you will find the lowest rates on Alibaba.
  2. Global SourcesGlobal Sources is another very popular worldwide B2B platform connecting buyers and sellers online, with the latest product listings. The Hong-Kong based company may not be as large as Alibaba, but it is known for hosting very reliable sellers that can ship to almost anywhere in the world.
  3. AliExpress – AliExpress is more of a B2C ecommerce store that ships to end-users directly. Product prices may be slightly higher than what you’ll find on Alibaba, but AliExpress does not require you to bulk-order. This is ideal for people running small home-based businesses that cannot afford to maintain large inventories. Another key difference is that AliExpress typically hosts retailers in China, whereas Alibaba also hosts manufacturers and factories directly. Often, these retailers have better customer service and communication skills that manufacturers or factories might not have.

Trade shows

If you can afford to travel to China (and indeed you should if you have a large business in order to do factory audits), then trade shows are a great way to find suppliers and negotiate with them. Although there are many shows that happen regularly in the country, the largest of them all is the Canton Fair that takes place twice a year in Guangzhou. Suppliers and retailers from all over the country go there to participate and exhibit their products; buyers visit the show to explore their options, negotiate directly with the suppliers and strike deals.

A possible drawback to these trade shows is, it can become pretty repetitive. You will see the same suppliers over and over each year, and it’s sometimes hard to have variety. Communication can also be difficult if you don’t speak Chinese, so you will probably need a local language interpreter.

Tips for finding suppliers in China

Now that we have looked at where to find suppliers, the next step is to vet them out and select ones that best suit your needs.

  • Product and variety – What kind of supply are you looking for? Do you want to order just one product, or do you intend to expand your catalogue later on? Pick a supplier that offers variety, so you can come back to them for future deals on other products.
  • Factory vs trading company – Factories typically offer a few products, whereas trading companies often have hundreds of products to showcase. However, factories often charge less. If you have a specialized business and you need bulk, chose a factory. But if you need variety and better customer support, then a retailer might be your best bet.
  • Trust ratings – Different online sourcing platforms have different rating mechanisms. If you’re buying from Alibaba, make sure to select a supplier with Trade Assurance and Gold Supplier This is Alibaba’s way of rating up premium and high rated sellers. On AliExpress, you will see numeric seller ratings and the diamond symbols for Top Sellers. Make sure you always select suppliers with these trust ratings, otherwise you might end up with a faulty or unreliable product. Also, be sure to go through reviews for suppliers written by other buyers to see how trustworthy they have been.
  • Pay through PayPal or Alibaba Assurance – Never pay a supplier through a method that you don’t have control over. Payments through PayPal or Alibaba Assurance are verified, and can be rolled back if needed. But methods such as Western Union don’t give you any control. Don’t select a supplier that asks for Western Union or similar payment methods.
  • Talk to suppliers – Alibaba, AliExpress, Global Sources, all of these platforms let you get in contact with suppliers. Always chat with a supplier, letting them know about your interest in their product and negotiate with them over the price. Most sellers will accommodate your request if you order in bulk. You can judge supplier quality by the level of customer support they offer and their willingness to accommodate your request. However, do not make the mistake of telling them that you’re a first-time buyer.

These were some ways you can find yourself some good suppliers in China. Getting the right supplier can make the difference for your business, so take your time with this step and do your research thoroughly. Good luck!

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