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5 Things to Know Before Starting to Import or Export From China

5 Things to Know Before Starting to Import or Export From China


If your firm is looking to start importing or exporting from China, then there are several basic guidelines that you need to know – particularly if your company is based elsewhere.

In this article, you will learn about Chinese export standards and customs procedures, transit times for international shipping from China to the US and other countries, and the busiest routes for ocean and air freight from China. In other words, everything you need to know about shipping from China.

Keep reading for five things to know before starting to import or export from China.

1. There is no uniformity of customs specifications and procedures in China.

Unlike many other countries, in China, there is no uniformity of customs specifications and procedures. Instead, these protocols vary depending on the region. Therefore, your company must ascertain the precise rules for the Chinese port in which your goods will be declared.

That being said, there is a general minimum requirement for documentation that you must follow. No matter where you are importing or exporting from, you want to ensure that you have a customs entry document, a customs declaration, a commercial invoice, a packing list, and an export license. Without an export license, you won’t be able to move goods in and out of the country.

To ensure that all documentation is in order, it is highly recommended that you work with a licensed trading company or a reputable export agency. By working with professional specialists, you can rest easy knowing that your documents are filled out accurately and are filed according to the relevant procedures.

2. All exports must comply with licensing regulations.

Again, dissimilar to other countries (such as the United States where licensing only pertains to specific types of products and materials), when it comes to exporting from China, all goods must comply with licensing regulations.

Chinese export restrictions include goods and materials that are categorized as having a dual military/commercial use, as well as a range of raw materials. Furthermore, China also has a list of materials that are not allowed to be exported at all. However, it must be noted that the extent of restricted goods and materials is declining as China endeavors to become more compliant with WTO laws.

At any rate, in order to stay up-to-date with the changing rules, it is best to speak with a China freight forwarder who can advise you on your plans to export and or import goods to or from China.

3. Intra-Asia trade lanes are the most active of all the ocean freight routes.

Undoubtedly, over the past few decades, China has gone from strength-to-strength and become a principal offshore manufacturing center for businesses in both the West and the East. For this reason, most countries in the world are served by ocean trade lanes from China.

That being said, out of all of these routes, it is the intra-Asia trade lanes that remain the most active. The five most heavily used ocean routes are Shanghai to Busan (South Korea), Ningbo to Busan, Shanghai to Singapore, Ningbo to Singapore, and Ningbo to Port Kelang (Malaysia).

For Asian countries, it doesn’t take very long to receive an ocean freight shipment from China, For example, Xiamen to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) takes three days while Xiamen to Nagoya (Japan) takes five days. On the other hand, goods traveling by water to the Americas require the longest time. From Ningbo to Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), or Shanghai to Boston (USA), the wait time is generally 30 days.

4. Air freight routes are more suitable for high-value or time-critical goods.

Due to the length of time required to move goods from China to Europe or the Americas by ocean freight, many companies opt to use air freight routes for goods that are high-value or time-critical.

While it is a much faster way of moving products, it also comes with a higher price tag. Generally, freight is moved by passenger airliners and dedicated freighter aircraft, ensuring that you can always find a plane to take your products.

When it comes to the busiest air freight routes from China, the top five are Shanghai to Frankfurt (Germany), Shanghai to Los Angeles (USA), Shanghai to Singapore, Beijing to Tokyo (Japan), and Shanghai to London (UK).

For airfreight moving from China to other Asian countries, the shipment generally takes less than two hours (although, goods can often spend hours or even days at the border). On the other hand, air freight shipments from China to the United States can take a lot longer. For example, Shanghai to Dallas or Chicago requires flight times of almost 13 hours. Guangzhou to Frankfurt (Germany) takes 11 hours of flying time.

5. Working with a freight forwarding service is the most effective and efficient way to start importing and exporting from China.

There is no denying that every moment is precious when your company depends on hassle-free, efficient shipping to or from China. Therefore, it is in your best interest to work with a freight forwarding service that specializes in speeding up the process and making sure that everything runs smoothly.

What’s more, an international freight forwarder will be able to provide you with quotes for your potential routes. This will help you decide on the best course of action to take and the routes that will keep your business growing.

When looking for a freight forwarding service to work with to move your freight to China, make sure you are looking for one that recognizes the importance of trouble-free, fast imports and exports from China for business success.

The best freight forwarding company offers an online platform where you can quickly and easily find a quote, book, pay, and track your shipments. Furthermore, you want a company that works with you to ensure that your required documentation is complete, decreasing the chance of delays in transit or at customs facilities.

Is your firm interested in starting to import or export from China? Why or why not? Do you feel comfortable dealing with the logistics on your own, or are you interested in working with a professional service that can help shoulder the responsibility?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


As Chief Product Officer for Shipa Freight, Paul Rehmet is responsible for translating the vision of Shipa Freight into an easy-to-use online freight platform for our customers. Formerly Vice President of Digital Marketing for Agility, Paul managed Agility’s website, mobile apps, content marketing and online advertising campaigns. In his 25-year career, Paul has held various technology leadership positions with early-stage startups and Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Destiny Web Solutions, and US Airways. Paul has a Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Computer Science from Brown University. Paul is based in Philadelphia.