How to Find a Reliable Supplier in China: Guide - Fulfillment-Box Skip to main content
How to find a supplier or manufacturer in China

China has established itself as one of the primary global manufacturing centers. The market offers a wide range of goods to suit any taste and need. What is especially important is that the quality of Chinese products today successfully competes with well-known European brands. Moreover, the fact that labor is cheaper in China allows Asian manufacturers to offer their goods at attractive prices. For European entrepreneurs, this presents an opportunity to buy cheaply, sell at higher prices, and generate high profits.

However, to successfully sell, it is not enough to simply purchase goods at a low price. For profitability, the quality of the products, their timely delivery, and favorable terms of cooperation with the supplier are crucial. Among the vast selection of Chinese manufacturers, there is always a risk of encountering scammers or purchasing low-quality goods from underground production.

From our guide, you will learn how to find vendors in China and how to verify them to save time, minimize risks, and ensure successful cooperation.

1. What Do You Need to Know for Finding a Supplier in China?

Before embarking on the search for anything, it’s important to clearly define what exactly you are looking for. This principle applies not only to goods and services but also to finding suppliers. The Chinese market is home to a vast number of manufacturers. To narrow down the pool of potential partners, you need to decide on the category of goods and establish clear selection criteria. Ask yourself three questions:

  • What category of products are you interested in?
  • What volume of purchases do you plan to make?
  • Are you looking for a one-time purchase or a long-term partnership?

Answers to these questions will help you focus your search and select the most suitable suppliers for your business.

1.1 Identify a promising product category

If you’re forming your assortment solely on guesswork or supplier-driven offers, you risk wasting money. To trade successfully, it’s important to select products that will sell steadily and bring profit. Therefore, before finding a supplier in China, identify a promising product category for sale.

Analyze the market and identify the most in-demand products that consumers are seeking. Pay attention to current trends and competition in the chosen niche. At the same time, don’t forget about your own interests and expertise. Working with products you are knowledgeable about will increase your motivation and likelihood of success.

1.2 Evaluate the planned volume of purchases

The planned volume of purchases will help identify suppliers capable of meeting your needs on a large scale. If you’re dropshipping, you need to find direct suppliers in China. Look for such partners among retail sellers. If you’re launching your own online store and planning to purchase a large quantity of goods, it’s wiser to approach manufacturers directly, bypassing intermediaries. This will allow you to obtain better prices and delivery terms. However, keep in mind that large Chinese manufacturers prefer to work with large batches of goods. If you need to order a small volume, choose from small to medium-sized manufacturers.

1.3 Establish the format of cooperation

It’s equally important to establish the format of cooperation – whether it will be a one-time purchase or regular supplies. Chinese manufacturers typically ship goods in large batches. The larger the batch, the lower the purchasing price they are willing to offer. One-time purchases or irregular orders on an as-needed basis are not appealing to such suppliers. Long-term stable relationships are important for Chinese factories. If you need to make a one-time purchase for a specific event, look for a source among traders or retail sellers. They can supply you with a small batch of goods and provide flexibility in orders according to your needs.

2. Who Can Act as Suppliers in China?

In China, there are two main types of suppliers willing to cooperate with European entrepreneurs: manufacturers and traders. Among manufacturers, you can distinguish large factories specializing in mass production, as well as small firms and workshops. They usually offer small volumes of goods and typically produce various souvenirs, accessories, and toys. All suppliers have different capabilities and working conditions. Let’s compare them.

FactoriesSmall firms and workshopsTraders
Low purchase pricePurchase price may be higher than factories’, however, lower than traders’Price is higher than that of manufacturers
Manufacture products to the standards and requirements of the customerManufacture products according to the standards and requirements of the customerComposition and structure of goods cannot be altered
Offer large wholesale suppliesOffer small batches of goodsCan work with various order volumes
Not all have an export licenseNot all have an export licenseHave an export license
Not all know EnglishNot all know EnglishAs a rule, know English

It’s more advantageous to purchase goods from Chinese factories. Due to the scale of production, they offer a lower price per unit of the product. They provide the opportunity to create goods according to your specifications or select products from their production line. However, it’s not as simple as it seems. Large manufacturers sell goods exclusively in large volumes. We’re talking about hundreds of units and kilograms in weight. If you plan to purchase a smaller volume, consider representatives of the medium and small-scale manufacturing categories.

It’s also worth noting that not all manufacturers have an export license. This means that the services of an exporting company will be required for document processing and delivery of goods to your country. Involving a third party in the collaboration process entails additional expenses.

Additionally, not all manufacturers have an in-house translator proficient in English. This complicates communication between parties and may require the involvement of an external translator, leading to additional expenses.

As for traders, they act as intermediaries between manufacturers and buyers. They have a wide network of contacts and a good understanding of the market. One of the main advantages of working with them is the opportunity to access the product range of multiple suppliers at once without the need to communicate with each of them separately. This significantly simplifies the procurement process and allows you to save time and resources.

Traders offer more flexible cooperation terms. They purchase goods from factories and sell them on the international market. They have an export license and communicate with the client in their language. Typically, English proficiency is mastered by traders. However, keep in mind that purchasing products through an intermediary will cost you more than sourcing directly from the manufacturer.

3. How to Find a Good Manufacturer in China?

Finding suppliers is no easy task, especially when it comes to finding an international partner. However, Chinese companies are actively seeking to expand their presence in the European market. They make every effort to attract the attention of potential partners. Online platforms, annual exhibitions, and trade fairs—all of these significantly facilitate the search for collaboration partners.

3.1 Marketplaces

B2B platforms are one of the most popular ways to find China wholesale suppliers. Among Chinese marketplaces, there are many platforms that allow you to contact manufacturers directly. You can browse their catalogs, explore their products and terms of cooperation, and also get in touch with company representatives for additional information.

Another advantage of using marketplaces to find vendors is the ability to compare various offers and terms of cooperation. On online platforms, you can find numerous suppliers offering similar products and compare their prices, product quality, delivery terms, and more. This allows you to choose the most advantageous and suitable supplier for your needs.

To make your task easier, we have selected 15 popular online resources for finding suppliers in China:

3.2 Trade shows and webinars

If you want to meet suppliers in person, visit trade shows and fairs held annually in China. Here, you can personally assess the quality of products, establish contacts with company representatives, and discuss cooperation terms.

The most significant event for Chinese suppliers and entrepreneurs from around the world is the Canton Fair. It is held twice a year in the city of Guangzhou and offers a wide range of products from various industries. At the fair, you can find suppliers of various goods, ranging from electronics and clothing to building materials and automotive parts. This is an excellent opportunity to meet suppliers in person, assess the quality and variety of their products, and establish long-term business relationships.

3.3 Forums

Forums are another useful method for finding suppliers. There are many online communities where entrepreneurs discuss their experiences with Chinese vendors, share advice, and recommendations. Often, such forums have thematic sections dedicated to cooperation with Chinese manufacturers. Here, entrepreneurs share their impressions of working with specific companies, provide valuable tips for choosing reliable partners, and even leave contacts for connecting with such manufacturers.

However, it’s important to remember that information on forums can be subjective and not always reliable. It’s crucial to conduct additional research and verify the information obtained from such sources.

4. How to Verify a Chinese Supplier?

The supplier you choose will affect many aspects of your business: from the quality of the product to your reputation in the market. Even the most brilliant business plan can fail if the chosen vendor proves to be unscrupulous. This involves the risk of receiving substandard goods, defective batches, or not receiving them at all. Carefully vet the individuals or companies you plan to work with. How can this be done when dealing with Chinese suppliers?

4.1 Study reviews on the website and ratings on trading platforms

The first and undoubtedly important method of verifying a supplier in China is to study reviews about the company and its ratings on trading platforms. This serves as a primary filter, helping you narrow down potential candidates and identify those who have already established a positive reputation.

See what other clients have to say about this supplier: how they assess the quality of its products, the speed of delivery, the level of service. Reviews can give you an idea of the company’s reputation and reliability. Also, pay attention to the vendor’s rating on the trading platform. A high rating may indicate that the company has been successfully operating in the market for a long time and satisfying the needs of customers.

4.2 Gather information about the company through internet resources

Some information about the supplier can be obtained without directly contacting them. Gather all available information about them on the internet. Start with the company’s website. Pay attention to the language of the website: the main version should be in Chinese. If a company based in China has a website entirely in English, this should raise suspicion. Also, check for the presence of contact information: address, phone numbers, and email address. This will allow you to contact the vendor and confirm their existence.

Additionally, in China, there are numerous services and databases that can be used to verify Chinese companies. Check whether the company has been involved in legal disputes. This can be done on the website of the Supreme Court of China. This information will help you assess the reliability and stability of a potential partner.

4.3 Request all founding documents from the potential supplier

When conducting business with a Chinese supplier, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of its legal status and activities. Request all founding documents from the company, confirming its legality and capacity to act.

These documents include:

✔ Business license;
✔ Export license;
✔ Articles of association;
✔ Tax registration certificate;
✔ Product quality certificates.

This information will help you avoid potential risks. Pay attention to the consistency of the data in the documents with the information provided by the company itself. In case of any doubts or uncertainties, it’s better to seek assistance from a legal expert or consultant to obtain professional help.

4.4 Request product samples from the supplier

It’s too risky to immediately place a large order with the supplier. In reality, the product may not meet the stated specifications and photos. Therefore, before entering into a large deal or long-term contract with the vendor, request product samples from them. This will allow you to assess the quality of the products and ensure they meet your expectations. This way, you’ll understand exactly what your investments will be going into.

4.5 Hire a Chinese inspector to audit the supplier’s production

To ensure high product quality and compliance with all production standards, inspect your potential supplier. Hiring a Chinese inspector will significantly reduce the risks of receiving substandard products.

The inspector will conduct an inspection of the production facilities, equipment, working conditions, and also verify the compliance of production processes with the stated quality and safety standards. The audit results will help you make an informed decision about collaborating with the supplier and minimize the risks of unforeseen quality issues with the products.

5. Rules for Working with Chinese Suppliers

For a successful deal, it’s not enough to just choose a good supplier in China. Whether through an intermediary or independently, you’ll have to communicate with them. Considering the peculiarities of mentality, culture, and legislation, adhering to certain rules will significantly facilitate cooperation and reduce the risks of potential problems. Here are the key rules to follow when working with Chinese suppliers:

  • Negotiate with those who have authority: Ensure that your counterpart has the power to make decisions rather than just conveying information. This will help avoid ineffective discussions and expedite the decision-making process.
  • Conduct correspondence with the supplier through messaging apps: Chinese prefer communicating through social networks such as WeChat and QQ. If you contact them via email, you might have to wait longer for a response.
  • Specify the contract in as much detail as possible: Due to stiff competition, suppliers in China rarely say “no” to their customers. They fulfill orders, but the final result doesn’t always meet the agreed requirements. To avoid such misunderstandings, meticulously outline all product, packaging, and transportation requirements in the contract from the outset.
  • Monitor the quality of goods: Relying solely on product samples, even if they meet your requirements, is not sufficient to safeguard against receiving a subpar batch. Include provisions in the contract allowing you to be present at the factory during production or to monitor the process through video or photo reports. This way, you can control the quality of the products and address any issues that arise.
  • Foster mutually beneficial relationships (guanxi): In China, business relationships are built on guanxi, rather than purely commercial principles. Chinese value personal connections and mutual trust. They typically show great interest in those who show attention and care towards them. To establish quality and long-term business relationships, one meeting and correspondence with the supplier may not be enough. Invest time and effort in developing relationships with Chinese partners, show care and interest in their affairs. This will help lay a favorable foundation for successful cooperation.
  • Avoid bothering the supplier during the Chinese New Year: The New Year in China lasts for about a month and falls on different dates each year. During this period, practically all enterprises and organizations, including factories, logistics services, and ports, suspend their operations. About two weeks before the holiday begins, companies start operating at reduced capacity. If you need a shipment, plan it well in advance to avoid lengthy delays.
  • Enter into a long-term agreement with the supplier: Chinese factories often fulfill the first order at a low cost. However, they may raise prices for subsequent deliveries, citing increases in raw material costs or other unforeseen circumstances. If you plan to collaborate with the supplier regularly, consider entering into a long-term dealership agreement. This will reduce the likelihood of changing transaction terms.

6. Mediator or Independent Search: Which is More Profitable?

Finding suppliers in China independently is advantageous in terms of cost savings. You won’t have to pay commission fees to a mediator. However, this approach is associated with certain risks:

  • Language barrier;
  • Risk of falling victim to scammers;
  • Receiving low-quality or defective products;
  • Violation of delivery deadlines;
  • Issues with documents and customs clearance.

You will need to invest significant time and resources in studying the market, verifying the reliability of suppliers, and organizing the supply chain.

A mediator possesses deep knowledge of local market conditions, cultural nuances in doing business with Chinese suppliers, and the legal environment. They can help minimize risks associated with choosing an unreliable supplier or entering into an unfavorable contract.

Furthermore, an experienced mediator has connections. Thanks to a developed network of contacts, they can offer more favorable collaboration terms. A mediator can also assist with logistics, customs clearance, and quality control. This simplifies the procurement and delivery process to your country. Let’s compare all three methods of finding suppliers in China.

Time for searchingCostsQuality control of goodsLikelihood of a profitable deal
Search through the Internet1 dayFreeNot applicable50%
Trip to ChinaOne to one and a half monthsCosts for business trip and translator services (approximately $1500)Possibility to assess quality>90%
Through a mediatorfrom 7 daysPayment of commission to the mediator (from 3%)Supplier audit, full production control>90%

Fulfillment-Box offers a comprehensive solution. We will conduct a supplier audit according to your instructions, verify the presence of all necessary licenses and certificates, prepare the goods, and ship them to your warehouse or one of our warehouses in Europe.

We will take care of:

  • Supplier inspection;
  • Consolidation of goods from various vendors;
  • Storage of goods in warehouses in China;
  • Shipping goods from China to Europe and the USA: from small parcels to large batches and containers;
  • Preparation and shipping of goods directly to Amazon warehouses;
  • Fulfillment of dropshipping orders.

Save yourself time, resources, and money. Leave us a request. We will audit your supplier in China, purchase the goods, and swiftly, reliably, and risk-free deliver them to your country.

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Julia Gordon

AuthorJulia Gordon

Head of the Fulfillment-Box Prep Centers network

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