China country guide

Learn about cross-border ecommerce, shipping, and importing.

If you are looking to grow your ecommerce business into 🇨🇳 Attribution for Twitter Emojis: ©️ Twitter, Inc. China, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about selling goods into China.

China has two clearance types
  • Personal consumption clearance
  • Ecommerce clearance

Ease of importing goods score: B 

Ease of doing business 4/5

  • China’s population, increaing wealth, growing demographics, and economic shift brings an ubandance of opportunties for business.
  • China is the biggest ecommerce market in the world.
  • China has some regulations that could create barriers for business.

Landed cost fairness 3/5

  • China’s tax rate for imported goods is slightly below the global average, while its duty rate is midrange, making for a generally fair landed cost.
  • Duty and tax is charged on all imports into China, which is unfavorable for landed cost.
  • There are several stringent compliance regulations when importing into China.
  • Registration requirements, permits, delays, operational uncertainty, and lengthy administrative procedures are common.

Availability and accessibility of shipping 5/5

  • All major carriers offer shipping services to China, allowing for easy access.

Accessibility and variety of payment methods 5/5

  • China uses a variety of digital payment methods, including digital wallets (WeChat, Paypal, Alipay, etc.), Mastercard, and Visa.

Market opportunity 5/5

  • China’s population and high percentage of internet users provide a potentially successful economy for retailers.

Key stats for China 

Population1.4 billion (2022)
GDP14.72 trillion (2022)
GDP per capita12,732 USD (2022)
Internet penetration74.4% of the population use the internet (2022)
Ecommerce users72% of the population shop online (2022)
Leading product categoriesFood, beauty and personal care, and fashion
Preferred online payment method(s)Digital wallet and credit card
LanguagesMandarin (standard), Cantonese, Shanghainese
CurrencyChinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY)

Landed cost for China 

The landed cost for a cross-border transaction includes all duties, taxes, and fees associated with the purchase. This includes:

  • Product price
  • Shipping
  • Duties
  • Taxes
  • Fees (currency conversion, carrier, broker, customs, or government fees)

China de minimis, tax, and duty

Term to know

CIF: CIF (cost, insurance, freight) is a method for calculating import taxes or duties where the tax is calculated on the cost of the order plus the cost of freight and insurance.

Further explanation of de minimis, tax, and duty provided below

De minimis

Duty and tax will be charged only on imports into China where the total CIF value of the import exceeds China’s minimum value threshold (de minimis). China does not have a de minimis for ecommerce/courier shipments, which means duty and tax fees are charged on all ecommerce imports. Personal consumption imports have a duty and tax de minimis of 50.00 CNY, which means duty and tax will only be charged on personal imports with a CIF value over 50.00 CNY. Any personal shipments with a order value less than 50.00 CNY will be considered a duty and tax-free import.

Duty and tax de minimis

Ecommerce clearance shipments:

  • Duty and tax de minimis: 0 CNY

Applied to the CIF value of the order

Personal consumption shipments:

  • Duty and tax de minimis: 50 CNY

Applied to the CIF value of the order

Import tax

VAT -Value-added tax

A 13% VAT applies to most imports into China; certain products are subject to a reduced rate of 9%. uses the CIF valuation method for calculating VAT.

  • Average rate: 13%
  • Reduced rate: 9%

Applied to the CIF value of the order

Parcel tax

Parcel tax is imposed at a standard rate of 25% on goods imported into China for personal use. Here’s some information about parcel tax for personal consumption imports:

  • A single item, regardless of its value, is subject to the flat parcel tax.
  • Multiple items with a combined value under 1,000 CNY are subject to the flat parcel tax.
  • Multiple items with a combined value above 1,000 CNY are subject to the normal duty and VAT calculation.
  • If the parcel tax amounts to less than CNY 50, the tax is waived.
Parcel tax replaces VAT

When parcel tax applies, its flat rate of 25% replaces VAT, duty, and de minimis rules.

Consumption tax

A consumption tax between 1% and 56% is imposed on all imports into China falling under the following categories:

  • Products whose over-consumption is harmful to health, social order, and the environment, e.g., tobacco, alcohol, firecrackers, and fireworks
  • Luxury goods and non-necessities, such as precious jewelry and cosmetics
  • High-energy consumption and high-end products, such as passenger cars and motorcycles
  • Non-renewable and non-replaceable petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel oil and
  • Financially significant products, such as motor vehicle tires.

Consumption tax is calculated over the CIF value plus any applicable duty.

Import duty

Duty is charged on the CIF (Cost Insurance Freight) value of the item, which means that duty is calculated based on the price of the good, plus the cost of packing, freight, insurance, and seller's commission.

  • Average rate: 12.5% Applied the the CIF value of the order

Trade agreements

China has at least 17 trade agreements that offer a zero or highly discounted duty rate for goods manufactured in participating countries.

China is a member of the World Trade Organization

As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), China must abide by the most-favored-nation (MFN) clause, which requires a country to provide any concessions, privileges, or immunities granted to one nation in a trade agreement to all other WTO member countries. For example, if one country reduces duties by 10% for a particular WTO country, the MFN clause states that all WTO members will receive the same 10% reduction.

Landed cost examples

Below are sample landed cost breakdowns for different shipment types to China calculated using Zonos Quoter:

Courier/ecommerce shipment to China
Personal shipment to China

Landed cost quote courier shipment above de

Landed cost quote ecommerce shipment above de

Landed cost quote ecommerce shipment

Customs resources 

China’s Customs authority:

Customs refund in China:

Note: Talk to your carrier about customs refunds.

Shipping and compliance 

Top courier services:

  • DHL
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • China Post
  • Hong Kong Post
  • SF Express

Courier fees

Depending on the courier, additional shipping fees may include:

  • Tracking
  • Insurance
  • Fuel surcharge
  • Remote delivery charge
  • Signature fee
  • Overweight or oversized fee
  • Special handling fee
  • Dangerous goods fee
  • etc.

Documentation and paperwork

Always required:

Required for Express clearance:

  • For shipments of multiple boxes: a packing list
  • For online purchases: proof of payment
  • For CAT B personal shipments: a copy of the receiver's ID card or passport; "personal articles" should be written in the description of the goods on the commercial invoice

Required for Formal clearance:

  • Packing list

Sometimes required:

  • Customs declaration
  • Insurance policy
  • Sales contract
  • Import quota certificate for general commodities (where applicable)
  • Import license (where applicable)
  • Inspection certificate issued by the General Administration of Quality Supervision
  • Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ) or its local bureau (where applicable)
  • Other safety or quality licenses

Prohibited, restricted, and controlled imports into China

Government agencies regulate imports.

Prohibited vs. restricted vs. controlled items

Restricted items are different from prohibited items. Prohibited items are not allowed to be imported into a country at all. Restricted items are not allowed to be imported into a country unless the importer has approval or a special license. Controlled goods have military or national security significance.

Prohibited items:

  • Ammunition and explosives of all kinds
  • Biological products and substances
  • Counterfeit currencies and counterfeit negotiable securities
  • Disease-carrying animals and plants
  • Electronic cigarettes
  • Foods, medicines, and other articles coming from disease-stricken areas
  • Gambling devices
  • Guns, firearms, and any form of weapon
  • Illicit drugs
  • Lethal poisons
  • Military equipment
  • Old/used garments
  • Pornographic material
  • Printed matter, magnetic media, films, or photographs that threaten the political, economic, cultural, and moral interests of China
  • Soil
  • Toy guns

Restricted items:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Antiques
  • Artwork
  • Dietary supplements
  • Jewelry
  • Lithium batteries
  • Plants
  • USB sticks

Stipulations on certain commodities

Specific goods are subject to certain stipulations. To see a detailed list of these goods and the procedures and documentation they require upon entry into China, visit the following page: China stipulations on certain commodities.

Express and formal customs clearance in China

Express clearance:

Shipment types and values:

CAT A - Documents - No commercial value: Declared value of documents should be 1 USD or 7 CNY.

CAT B - Personal effects, gifts, online purchases or a single item - Value is less than 1,000 CNY (800 CNY for parcels from Hong Kong SAR (China), Macau SAR (China) and Taiwan (China)): Value can be above 1,000 CNY for a single item personal shipment (e.g. handbag) if approved by customs. Taxes and duties still apply.

CAT C - Non-dutiable goods like samples, low-value products, advertising material - No commercial value: Total duty and taxes are less than 50 CNY.

CAT C - Some dutiable goods - Value is less than 5,000 CNY and goods are not regulated: Total duty and taxes are more than 50 CNY.

Customs processing time:

24 hours or less if all the paperwork is correct.

Formal clearance:

Shipment types and values:

CAT D - Dutiable goods that are subject to customs duties - Value is higher than 5,000 CNY: Value is less than 5,000 CNY, but goods are regulated.

Customs processing time

At least 24 hours from receipt of complete and correct shipping paperwork.

Delayed declaration fee

A delayed declaration fee will be applied to shipments that have not been declared within 14 days counting from the declaration of the arrival of the shipment into the customs territory. Starting from its 15th day after arrival at customs, the shipment will be subject to the delayed declaration fee, which will be calculated on a per diem basis. The daily fee will be 0.05% of the CIF value of the imported goods. The declared declaration fee may be waived in the following situations:

The consignee still has not declared the shipment within three months of the import goods' arrival declaration in the Customs territory, and the goods have been taken to be sold off by the Customs in accordance with Article 21 of the Customs Law of the People's Republic of China; The consignee, upon Customs approval and with security furnished, takes delivery of the goods beforehand and completes the declaration formalities within the time limit guaranteed; The shipment is detained by Customs; the fee exemption will only apply to the period of detainment. The total delayed declaration fee is below 50 CNY.

Frequently asked questions 

Do I have to pay parcel tax in addition to duty and VAT?

No. When parcel tax applies to a shipment, it replaces both VAT and duty. The parcel tax is a flat rate of 25%.

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