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Which Cities in China Should Business People Live in to Find the Best Suppliers?

Author: Jing Zhu (CEO of Jingsourcing)

When it comes to Chinese cities, most westerners will rank Shanghai and Beijing as their favorite choices to work and live in China. However, those two cities are not the best choice for foreigners who are planning on importing from China. In view of this, I’d like to introduce the other four Chinese cities that are best suitable for doing import & export business in China.

Shanghai China City River Buildings

1. Guangzhou

Why Do Business People Choose to Live in Guangzhou?

Guangzhou is the most important international trading city thus far. It owns the largest number of industrial categories among cities in South China. It also has a comprehensive and complete industrial system along with neighboring cities of Foshan, Dongguan, Shenzhen, etc.

You can easily find concentrated markets of Clothing, Kitchenware, Lighting, Toys, Shoes, Leather, Watches, Furniture, etc. in Guangzhou, Dongguan and many LED, ceramic factories in the nearby city of Foshan.

Every year, over 100 trade shows are held in Guangzhou across various industries. Among them, the twice-yearly China Import & Export Fair, also knowns as Canton Fair, is the largest scale trade fair since its launch in 1957. It is held every April and October, featuring the largest buyer attendance, the broadest distribution of buyers’ source country and greatest business turnover.

The vast transportation network also makes it easy for people to commute between Guangzhou and other cities in the world. Baiyun International Airport is one of the busiest airports in China. A 4-hour flight can get you to any city in East Asia, South Asia and North Asia. A 12-hour flight can get you to all major cities around the world.

Guangzhou is also full of delicacies and the most famous is the Cantonese cuisine (Yue Cai). You can find many western restaurants here such as Spanish, French, Italian, Malaysian, etc.

How to find suppliers and manage the supply chain in Guangzhou?

Guangzhou has over 1000 wholesale markets. These markets cover around 40 types of commodity categories, such as Clothing, Furniture, Leather Goods, Shoes, Watches, Toys, etc.

For clothing wholesale market, the most popular ones are Baima Clothing wholesale market, Shahe Clothes wholesale market, Zhan Xilu Garment Wholesale Market, Children & Kids Products Wholesale Market, Xintang International Jeans City, Jinxiang Underwear Wholesale Market, etc.

Top leather markets include Shiling international leather city, Baiyun World Leather Trading Centre, Yi Sen Leather market. You can find lots of toys and gifts in Yide Lu International Toys and Gifts Markets, Liwan Toy wholesale market, etc.

For shoe wholesale market, Global International Shoe Trade Centre (also known as Bu Yun Tian Di Shoes World), Euro Commercial Plaza Shoes City, Jinma Shoe City, and New Continent Footwear Plaza are top places to go to find all kinds of shoe suppliers.

Remember that the sellers in the wholesale markets only speak minimal English and require payment in RMB. Before you go, you’d better hire a translator to go with you. A part-time translator will usually cost $50 a day; a full-time assistant with English speaking skills usually cost $600-$1,000 a month based on their working experience.

The wholesalers in the market prefer to sell in large quantities with cheaper prices. If you’ve got many categories to purchase but with small quantity of each, the easiest way is still to make the purchase directly in the market and pay either via cash, wechat or bank transfer.

If you specialize in 2-3 categories and have big orders to place, and think the wholesale prices are still not good enough, you’d better search suppliers online via Alibaba, global sources, etc.  Then start making factory visits to establish relations with them. If you want more value added professional service or leverage the know-how of a third party, a sourcing agent can help you handle everything from supplier sourcing, sampling, production follow-up and shipment.

2. Yiwu

Why Do Business People Choose to Live in Yiwu?

Yiwu is also a world-renowned trading city, having the world’s largest wholesale commodity market – Yiwu International Trade Market. This is also known as the also called as Yiwu Wholesale Market by foreigners.

It has five districts that are well organized according to different product categories in each district. Here you can easily find a wide variety of products such as toys, suitcases & bags, jewelry & accessories, clothing, hardware tools, home appliances, etc.

What makes Yiwu International Trade market different from other wholesale markets in Guangzhou? Firstly, the international trade market is a one-stop choice for over millions of types of products. You can find any product you can think of and visit district 1 to district 5 without leaving the building. There are also free market buses to take you around.

While in Guangzhou, different wholesale markets are located in different areas of the city. This means you have a long distance to go from one area to another. Also unlike Canton Fair, the Yiwu wholesale market is open all year round, except for Chinese New Year. You also do not have to wait for a specific time to meet all of the suppliers.

It is also very convenient to travel to nearby cities either by bullet train or plane. The world’s largest sock production centre (Zhuji City), China Textile City (Shaoxing City) and China Hardware Town (Yongkang Town) are all located close to Yiwu. It just takes 15 mins to get to Zhuji by high-speed train, and within 1 hour’s reach for Shaoxing and Yongkang.

Yiwu International Airport has dozens of air routes to cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, and other major international cities.

The large Muslim community in Yiwu also helps people of the same religion connect with each other very easily. You can also find lots of Muslim restaurants to satisfy your taste.

How to find suppliers and manage the supply chain in Yiwu?

With over 50,000 booths in the market, it is not exaggerating at all for you to take weeks to shop around the whole market.

If you know exactly what you want, the easiest way to find suppliers is to visit the specific district in the International Trade Market. It can be very easy for you to compare suppliers of the same product, and get a good price there.

Like the wholesalers in Guangzhou, the suppliers in the market can just understand some basic English like how much, price, quantity, etc, and will show you the price with a calculator. If you have a Chinese friend or business partner, be sure to ask them to take you there. They can act as your translator to have a deeper conversation with the vendors. As said earlier, you can also hire a part-time or full-time translator to accompany you in the market.

The quantity of products you are purchasing always matters a lot for which price you get. If you are purchasing a small amount, it is better for you to purchase directly in the wholesale market. Just be prepared to pay a small premium on this purchase.

However, if you purchase in a large number, you can source manufacturers directly through China wholesale websites like Alibaba, Made-in-China, etc. Then you can send them your inquiry and negotiate for a better price. If it is difficult for you to source satisfied suppliers, you can also find a professional sourcing agent to help with all the sourcing, pricing, production follow up, inspection and delivery, etc.

The good thing is that most of the suppliers in the market are based in Yiwu or other nearby cities. It can be very convenient for you to pay them a visit to see if they are legit or not.

3. Shenzhen

Why Do Business People Choose to Live in Shenzhen?

Shenzhen, is a rising and glittering metropolis in southern China; also known as the World’s Hardware Hub. It is reported that over 90% of the World’s electronic products come from Shenzhen. In this case, Shenzhen is China’s answer to Silicon Valley.

The Huaqiangbei Commercial Street has over 20 shopping malls and is most famous for its Electronics Markets. Big malls for electronic products and gadgets include Huaqiang Electronic World, SEG Electronic Market, Yuanwang Digital Mall, etc. You can find almost anything from mobile phones, laptops, tablets, to various electronic components such as circuits, microchips, LEDs, etc. With these components you can make your own smartphones or gadgets from scratch.

It is such a huge marketplace that you’d better prepare sufficient time to explore, ask, negotiate and discover the place. As there are so many vendors of one product category, you can always compare prices and quality by checking with different vendors to get what you want.

Shenzhen is also a good place for cheap clothing, no matter if you want to purchase high-end or low-class clothing. Century Plaza and Haiyan Wholesale Clothing Market mainly deal in middle to high-end export clothing, while Taoyuan Clothing City offers a wide range of prices. Surely, you can visit the Guangzhou wholesale market for more choices.

The proximity to Hong Kong also gives Shenzhen a unique advantage. Transport between Shenzhen and Hong Kong is becoming easier after passing through customs at 11 border control areas. You can also easily attend Hong Kong Electronics Fair, Hong Kong Toy Festival, International Jewelry and Fashion Expo, etc to look for business opportunities.

With the rapid growth of Shenzhen’s Economy, it has become home to ambitious entrepreneurs who seek to take advantage of the city’s position at the heart of global tech supply chain. It is a young and vibrant city, attracting enormous amount of engineers and startups into the city.

How to find suppliers and manage the supply chain in Shenzhen?

It is said that you can make a smartphone from scratch by purchasing all the electronic parts at Huaqiangbei. However, different people gain differently after visiting the market. Some of them  get lost because of the vast amount of choices available. Some of them even get cheated in the market without too much knowledge of the place.

Due to fierce competition, many vendors will move out of the market after their trial business within 6 months. Even if you exchanged contact information with the vendor at the market, it’ll be difficult for you to get in touch with them again if they are no longer there.

Most vendors at Huaqiangbei market are wholesalers; also the products in the market are not as well organized as in the Yiwu wholesale market. In such case, if you are purchasing in a large quantity, it is more advisable for you to hire a professional sourcing agent who’s familiar with the market situation and have solid relations with factories to help you with the orders. You just need to pay 3%-10% service fee of the product value to have the one-stop service from sourcing to delivery.

4. Ningbo

Why Do Business People Choose to Live in Ningbo?

Ningbo is also a manufacturing powerhouse in southeastern Zhejiang Province. One key difference between Ningbo and the above three cities is there is no wholesale market in the city. Instead, there are lots of small-medium sized factories and trading companies.

Capital of Plastic Machine is another nickname for Ningbo. Over 130 plastic machine producers are located in Ningbo, and about half of the world’s plastic machines are produced here.

Ningbo is also one of the major production bases in China for Home Electric Appliance, Stationery, Auto Parts, Mould, etc. It is home to over 3,000 electric appliance manufacturers and about 10,000 coordinative factories producing parts and accessories. There are over 3,000 mould manufacturers and around 800 stationery producers located in Ningbo.

The port of Ningbo-Zhou is an important cargo handling centre in Zhejiang. This is one of the busiest ports in the world in terms of cargo tonnage. All the containers in Eastern China are shipped from Ningbo Port or the neighboring Port of Shanghai to countries all over the world.

Ningbo is a very good city for living. It is not too big, nor too small, also not as crowded as big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, etc. The living environment is very pleasant, and the housing is not expensive either.

How to find suppliers and manage the supply chain in Ningbo?

There are no wholesale markets in Ningbo. The most common way to find suppliers is through online portals. You can easily source factories through online portals like Alibaba, made-in-china, global sources, etc.

If you’d rather focus more on your marketing efforts than searching and selecting multiple suppliers, it is better for you to switch to a professional sourcing agent or a trading company to liaison with factories, handle production follow-up, and arrange shipping, etc.

Ningbo will also hold various exhibitions, such as China International Stationery & Gifts Expo, China International Consumer Goods Fair, China International Machine Tool Expo, etc. If you have chance to visit Ningbo, you can speak to the suppliers directly face to face at the fairs.

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