All Things Shipping | Nov 08, 2022

Shipping To China From The US: Rules, Costs, Options

Hasan Nabulsi

Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, China’s e-commerce market surged to around $2.64 trillion U.S. dollars in 2021—that’s a 14 percent year-over-year growth when compared to 2020. Further, the market’s value is projected to be worth about $4 trillion U.S. dollars by 2026.

For e-commerce sellers like you, that means shipping to China can help you reel in some serious profits.

Learning how to ship to China means familiarizing yourself with the rules and regulations, tailoring your strategy to target Chinese consumers, and choosing the right carrier to get the job done.

General Rules and Prohibited Items When Shipping to China

China has strict regulations for imports from the United States. Consequently, you’ll need to pay close attention to the general rules for shipping to China and make sure the items you sell aren’t prohibited from being imported into the country.

The first things you’ll need for any shipment going to China are a commercial invoice, an air waybill, and—if you’re shipping multiple boxes at once—a detailed packing list. These documents must be legible, written in English, and accurate. It’s also important to make sure the items on the commercial invoice and packing list are consistent with the air waybill.

Remember: if any documents are missing or inconsistent, you could run into clearance delays at Chinese customs. Creating a clear protocol for preparing the documentation needed to ship to China is the best way to avoid frustrating delays that could leave your customers disappointed.

It’s also vital to take note of certain prohibited imports in China. These include

  • Counterfeit currency
  • Printed matter
  • Magnetic media
  • Politically detrimental films or photographs
  • Foods, medicines, or other articles originating from disease-ridden areas
  • Used or old garments
  • Food items containing certain food colorings or additives

How to Sell to Customers in China

Although certain government restrictions make it more difficult to sell to customers in China, it’s not impossible.

That said, selling to Chinese consumers means you’ll need to customize your website to accommodate them. Making simple changes like translating your site into Chinese is a great way to make your products more accessible in China.

Another easy way to tap into the Chinese e-commerce market is to use popular Chinese marketplaces like Alibaba to put your products at Chinese consumers’ fingertips. Advertising will also be different so you can’t advertise on the traditional social media platforms. Instead you’ll have to be reliant on the country’s own social platforms like WeChat and Weibo.

USPS Shipping To China

If you’re looking for the cheapest way to ship to China, consider USPS shipping to China.

USPS shipping is a great option for mailing packages that weigh less than 70 pounds and that are less than 108” wide. USPS also offers expedited shipping options like USPS Priority Mail International, making it a competitive choice versus other international carriers. Popular USPS services to China include:

Service Transit Time
Priority Mail Express International 3-5 business days
Priority Mail International 6-10 business days
First-Class International Service 11-20 business days

UPS Shipping to China

Need to ship large, heavy shipments to China? UPS International shipping can support packages weighing up to 150 pounds and measuring up to 165” wide. Since UPS is one of the biggest shipping carriers in China, you can count on them to deliver your packages quickly and efficiently.

Service Transit Time
Worldwide Expedited 2-5 business days
Worldwide Saver 6-10 business days

FedEx Shipping to China

There’s no doubt that FedEx is a force to be reckoned with in the world of international shipping. As a leader in international carrier services, FedEx can even broker shipments on your behalf, making the customs clearance process a breeze.

FedEx International accepts packages weighing up to 150 pounds and dimensions up to 108” long and 130” in girth and length.

Service Transit Time
International Priority 3-5 business days
International Economy 6-10 business days

DHL Shipping to China

Finally, DHL is another great carrier option for shipping to China. Since the company specializes in international shipping, you can count on fast, friendly service that simplifies the shipping process for you.

DHL can handle packages weighing up to 150 pounds and measuring up to 118” wide.

Service Transit Time
International Express 3-6 business days

How Much Does it Cost to Ship to China?

Offering competitive shipping rates is a great way to make your business stand out against the competition. Achieving the right mix of cost and transit times is vital to a positive customer experience.

Given the variability between different carriers, you’ll need to evaluate each option to ensure you make the right choice. For example, imagine you were shipping a parcel measuring 6” x 6” x 4” that weighed 3 lbs from New York, NY (zip code 10001) to the Pudong district of Shanghai (zip code 200120).

In this case, lets look at the lowest cost options for each major carrier while also taking Shippo’s discounted rates for USPS and UPS into account.

USPS UPS
$42.51 $47.51

The most affordable option in this case would be USPS First Class Package International. Keep in mind, that this USPS service would take approximately 15 days to arrive to it’s destination while UPS Worldwide Expedited® would only take 4 days to arrive and cost just $5 more. UPS Worldwide Express® would also oly take 1 day to reach its destination and would cost $53.74.

When shipping to China it will be important to look at all carrier options because the total cost of shipping to China will change on a case by case basis.

Taxes, Tariffs, and Customs Fees

Also, keep in mind that all packages entering China are subject to a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 13 or 17 percent. Chinese customs also apply customs duty charges on the value of the goods plus the cost of packing, freight, insurance, and any applicable seller commission—this is called the CIF value. You’ll need to either account for these fees in your pricing or pass them on to your recipients.

How Long Does It Take to Ship to China?

The transit times involved with shipping to China vary based on which carrier and service level you choose, as well as how well your accompanying paperwork is prepared. Typically, customs clearance only takes about 24 hours from receipt, assuming there are no issues with the paperwork.

You’ll also have the option to deliver your package Delivered Duty Unpaid (DDU) or Delivered Duty Paid (DDP). When you opt to ship DDU, the receiver of the package is responsible to pay applicable taxes, tariffs, and customs fees before delivery can take place. DDP packages, on the other hand, make you responsible to pay these fees, which usually leads to a faster clearance process.

Further, keep in mind that Chinese holidays can also impact how long it takes to ship to China. You should expect delays during China’s seven major holidays:

  • New Year’s: Jan. 1-3
  • Spring Festival: Jan. 31-Feb. 6
  • Qingming Festival: Apr. 3-5
  • Labor Day: Apr. 30-May 4
  • Dragon Boat Festival: Jun. 3-5
  • Mid-Autumn Festival: Sep. 10-12
  • National Day: Oct. 1-7

Shipping to Hong Kong vs. China

Shipping to Hong Kong is usually less expensive than shipping to China. Unlike China, Hong Kong is a free port, which means tariffs, taxes, and customs fees aren’t charged on imports into the country.

Hong Kong customs are also considerably more relaxed than China. The only prohibited items for import are:

  • Drugs
  • Antibiotics
  • Controlled chemicals
  • Fireworks

How to Ship to China with Shippo

Shipping to China is easier than ever with Shippo. Enjoy discounted international shipping rates, an easily integrated international shipping API, and a user-friendly website where you can keep all your shipments organized in one place.

Start printing labels, getting real-time rates, tracking packages, and even automating international paperwork with Shippo today!

Hasan Nabulsi is the Content Marketing Manager at Shippo.

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