There are three main ways to find quality suppliers in China:

1. Use an online B2B website;
2. Participate in exhibitions in China;
3. Hire a Chinese purchasing agent.

Of these three methods, the fastest (but not necessarily the most effective) way to find quality suppliers in China is to use an online B2B website. You need two things which you likely already have: an Internet-ready device and an Internet cable. With these, you can locate the following websites by yourself from the comfort of you home. There are many online B2B websites. Sourcing Nova has selected the five (5) most well-known websites for a brief introduction: Alibaba, 1688, Made-in-China, GlobalSources and HKTDC.

Alibaba

Alibaba is the world’s largest online sourcing directory website. You can find hundreds of thousands of quality suppliers in China here. You can easily make bulk orders from these suppliers. In China, most suppliers with overseas operations register for Alibaba accounts. It is not difficult to join Alibaba. Suppliers pay 29,800.00 (Around $4,000.00 USD) yuan to open a basic membership; if they choose to register as a gold member, the annual fee is 80,000.00 (Around $11,000.00 USD) yuan. After the membership is activated, suppliers can create their own product catalogs, add product information including price ranges and raw materials and then enter company information. Important company information includes: annual output, company profile, MOQ, contact information and the like.  This information is for you, the buyer.

Alibaba is now the largest online B2B website for quality suppliers in China, and the website Sourcing Nova feels is most important. For overseas importers such as yourself, here are some things you need to know about the site:

Advantages of Alibaba:

1. Alibaba is the largest purchasing market in China, you can basically find suppliers for any products you want to import from China;
2. Alibaba has many suppliers. The competition is fierce, and importers have many choices. If an importer has difficulties or issues with one supplier, it is easy to find another supplier to assist them;
3. Alibaba’s website is designed professionally, has fast loading speed and the user interface is relatively friendly and easy to use;
4. Most suppliers have clearly stated MOQ, and some suppliers have a lower initial order amount;
5. Alibaba has a solid review system and excellent customer service support, which helps importers to select trusted quality suppliers.

Disadvantages of Alibaba:

1. There are too many suppliers, and it is inevitable that there will be a mixed number of good and bad. There are scammers, and they are very difficult to catch;
2. Most of the suppliers on Alibaba are middlemen. Many trading companies claim to be factories, but in fact they are not manufacturers;
3. There are a lot of similar products on Alibaba. You often see the same product pictures appear many times in different places. This may be because those suppliers use the product information of the same factory, or the suppliers may copy and paste the information from among each other.
4. Some suppliers base their prices on whether you are a Western importer or a Chinese national, and the price quoted for western importers is usually higher than the price of locals. If you use a Chinese language inquiry, you can usually get a more favorable price;
5. Alibaba’s verification process for suppliers is relatively simple, and the administrators rarely go to sites to audit. In general, auditors only check whether the information provided by the supplier is consistent with the information the company has to provide to the Bureau of Industry Commerce. As long as the information matches, they will pass the audit.
6. Alibaba’s Gold Supplier badge does not have much practical significance for importers. This badge can be bought and renewed for approximately 80,000.00 yuan (About $11,000.00 USD) a year. The Gold Supplier badge does not represent the quality of suppliers’ products or the quality of their services. The Gold Supplier badge can, at best, indicate that the company’s financial resources are relatively strong, and they are willing to spend money to have the badge;
7. Alibaba’s search ranking is a built-in PPC system, so the top search results do not indicate the quality of the supplier. It can only indicate that the supplier is willing to pay for clicks;
8. Many suppliers have limited confidence in their own language skills because of their limited English ability. Some suppliers are lazy and do not want to spend time labeling and describing their products. Therefore, there are suppliers who copy and paste the product information from their peers without carefully reading or analyzing the information. If Sourcing Nova sees in the product description that the company claims to have a certain certification, we cannot rely entirely on the description. Usually, Sourcing Nova contacts the supplier and confirm certifications by email. Frequently, we find that companies do not remember having posted that content at all;
9. Alibaba’s Trade Assurance is not always reliable. If the importer disputes the quality of the products, the importer submits a complaint before receiving the goods. This means that if the importer does not have someone do a product inspection before shipping, the importer is likely to have little in the way of leverage for the dispute to be in their favor;
10. In China, most manufacturing companies are not good at managing Alibaba accounts. Alibaba is too difficult for many suppliers to understand well enough to update product information on a regular basis. Therefore, fancy suppliers on Alibaba can only show that they are familiar with Alibaba’s operating rules, or that the suppliers are good at Internet marketing activities. Companies cannot show that their products have a competitive advantage over their competition.

Although Alibaba has many disadvantages, it is still the world’s premier online B2B platform, and Alibaba is still the preferred purchasing website for overseas importers when importing from China. If you are able to overcome language barriers with the right skills, you may find long-term partners here. Sourcing Nova can fully act as your purchasing agent partner in China. We bypass those complicated Alibaba rules, let you directly find the best quality suppliers and arrange all the activities related to import and export.

1688.com

This is a pure Chinese B2B website and is owned by the same group that owns Alibaba. Many manufacturers that do not understand English will post their product information here. Relatively speaking, their prices are cheaper than Alibaba, but their products are mainly for domestic, inside of China, sales. There are many small and medium-sized production enterprises on this website. Some are workshop-type family-owned enterprises and may not have any factory standards. Many will not spend money for ISO9001, ISO14001 and BSCI certifications. The products these companies produce may not have any third-party certification, and products are solely checked by the company’s own quality management department. For foreign importers, this is a difficult website to navigate. If your product requirements are relatively simple and do not require complex certifications and document certificates and you hope to find cheap products, 1688.com may also be a good choice for finding quality suppliers with the assistance of Chinese purchasing agents like Sourcing Nova.

Made-in-china.com

Please note that this website has dashes in the URL, so do not confuse made-in-china.com with madeinchina.com. Made-in-china.com used to be China’s largest B2B website but was surpassed by Alibaba. Unlike Alibaba, made-in-china.com has a more complete audit system and usually invites auditors like SGS and Bureau Veritas to conduct on-site audits of registered suppliers. If the supplier claims to have ISO 9001, ISO 14001, BSCI and SA 8000 certifications, then the supplier really holds these certifications, and the evidence is well documented. Another thing to note is that the number of products and suppliers of made-in-china.com is much smaller than that of Alibaba.

GlobalSources

Unlike the previous three websites, GlobalSources is a company with a Hong Kong, not Chinese, background. For many Western importers, it is not as well-known as Alibaba. If your competitors are mainly importing products from Alibaba and you are looking for new or different suppliers at GlobalSources, then you will most likely not meet the same manufacturers. Because there are relatively few Amazon sellers using GlobalSources, the average person is more accustomed to using Alibaba.

GlobalSources regularly hosts exhibitions at the Asia World Expo Hall at Hong Kong International Airport. These exhibitions are relatively small in scale but highly professional. Because they have a Hong Kong background, suppliers on this platform usually have a higher fluency level of English. This also means that among these suppliers the proportion of trading companies or middlemen is higher.

HKTDC

You can tell from its name that HKTDC is also a company with a Hong Kong background. Suppliers registered on this site also undergo rigorous background checks. Sourcing Nova thinks that the suppliers on this site have a better reputation and may have higher quality products (also, prices will be higher). HKTDC will review the supplier’s manufacturing capability and social compliance standards in accordance with internationally accepted standards. They will ask Dun & Bradstreet and Intertek to do other related certifications. Companies that pass these certifications are 100 percent legitimate. One useful certification is that they will distinguish the type of supplier, indicating whether they are a manufacturer, trader or wholesaler. This is extremely useful for overseas importers.

Most exhibitions in Hong Kong can be found at HKTDC. These exhibitions are usually held at the Wan Chai Convention Center on Hong Kong Island. From jewelry to electronics, technology products, toys, baby wear, gifts and lighting equipment, clothing and accessories, many of the world’s leading companies will present very creative products that represent the latest trends of the times at these exhibitions.

You can also sign up for their Newsletter, and HKTDC often posts some interesting product ideas.

HKTDC is a very high-end procurement market. If your budget is limited, HKTDC may not be a good start, but their product and design ideas can send you on the right road. Experienced Amazon sellers can find some inspiration from HKTDC and have Sourcing Nova find high-quality suppliers and factories in China to produce these products. You will have an excellent product selection with reasonable prices and decent profit margin. (Please note: Appropriate modifications are made to avoid intellectual property and potential legal risks.)

Final thoughts

These are the five main online B2B websites that Sourcing Nova has introduced to you. In order of quality of best to least: HKTDC, GlobalSources, Made-in-China, Alibaba and 1688. However, in terms of the number of suppliers from most to least: Alibaba, 1688, Made-in-China, GlobalSources and HKTDC. Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages, and each platform can provide different values to overseas importers. You must consider many factors for a balance between quality, price and choice.

Sourcing Nova has many years of purchasing experience. By checking the global sales of the factory, Sourcing Nova chooses the most cost-effective Chinese manufacturer for overseas buyers. If you are in urgent need of a trusted partner to find quality suppliers in China, look no further than Sourcing Nova.  Let us know in a comment below how we can help you get started today!