Navigating 3PL Shipping Regulations in China: Guide for E-commerce Regulations

Navigating 3PL Shipping Regulations in China: A Comprehensive Guide for E-commerce

The overview

Shipping to China presents great opportunities for ecommerce sellers, but also requires navigating complex import/export regulations. Key takeaways include: research regulations thoroughly, use experienced logistics partners, confirm duties/taxes upfront, and align with customers on processes. This guide covers considerations and step-by-step processes to ship successfully to China.

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Table of Contents

Import and Export Regulations

Exporting goods to China requires compliance with regulations set by authorities like U.S. Customs, FDA, FCC, etc. On the China side, strict import regulations apply as well.

You will need an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) to export most commercial items to China. This identifies your product and the specific export rules that apply. Other key export documentation include:


Certain products have special export stipulations based on the ECCN classification. For example, electronics must meet Chinese standards and get testing/certification from approved agencies.

  • Food items need health and sanitary certificates from government authorities.
  • Apparel/footwear often requires labeling confirming materials/processing.
  • Cosmetics and skincare have ingredient restrictions.

Some commodities are prohibited or restricted from import in China. Check China’s import/export control list for specifics, but common examples include weapons, drugs, wildlife products, meat/poultry, fruits/vegetables, and media content like books/movies. Attempting to ship these without proper permits will lead to seizure and penalties.

Shipping Costs and Options

Shipping costs when exporting to China will depend on factors like the weight and dimensions of your products, the mode of transport, taxes and duties, etc. Here is an overview of the main options:

  • Air freight is the fastest option, with transit times of 1-2 weeks typically. Air is also the most expensive transport mode. It makes sense for time-sensitive or high-value goods.
  • Sea freight takes 44 days for transit to China but is much more economical than air for heavy or bulky items. Full container load (FCL) shipments allow you to consolidate large volumes into a shipping container. Less than container loads (LCL) are for smaller quantities.
  • Express couriers like DHL, FedEx or UPS will be the fastest option but also the most expensive. This is generally used for urgent documents or samples, not regular export shipments. Still, it provides a door-to-door service option.

Step-by-Step Shipping Process

Follow these key steps when shipping items from the US to China:

In the US:

  • Prepare a commercial invoice with full product descriptions, values, and other details as required for Chinese customs.
  • Generate a detailed packing list breaking down contents by quantity, weight, and type for each shipment.
  • Obtain an air waybill from your selected carrier when using air freight.

In China:

  • Submit an import goods declaration and your business’s registration details to customs before arrival.
  • Be prepared to pay import duties, taxes, and fees upfront as determined by customs valuation.


Shipping to China’s vast consumer market brings huge potential for e-commerce sellers. However, navigating the complex cross-border regulations smoothly requires extensive preparation and coordination. Partnerships with experienced logistics providers and aligning closely with customers are key to success.

 Conduct thorough research on both export and import requirements. Leverage established freight forwarders to handle documentation, customs clearance, and shipping/delivery. Calculate all duties and taxes accurately upfront to avoid unwelcome costs. And maintain open communication with your customer to align on logistics responsibilities and timelines. With the right knowledge, preparation, and support, you can access this lucrative opportunity for your business’s global growth.

Contact us today to discuss your specific China shipping needs.

FAQ: Shipping to China from the US for Ecommerce Sellers

Exporting to China requires compliance with US regulations set by authorities like Customs, FDA, FCC, etc., and adhering to China’s strict import regulations. An Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) is necessary for most items.

Products like electronics need to meet Chinese standards and undergo testing/certification. Food items require health certificates, apparel needs specific labeling, and cosmetics have ingredient restrictions.

Yes, China has a control list that includes prohibited items like weapons, certain drugs, wildlife products, and restricted media content. Shipping these without proper permits can lead to penalties.

Costs depend on factors like weight, dimensions, transport mode, and duties. Options include air freight (fast but expensive), sea freight (economical for heavy/bulky items), and express couriers (fast and expensive, suitable for urgent shipments).

In the US, classify products using ECCN, prepare commercial invoices and packing lists, and obtain air waybills for air freight. In China, submit import declarations, pay duties and taxes, and arrange inspection if required.

Partner with experienced logistics providers, conduct thorough research on export/import requirements, accurately calculate duties and taxes, and maintain communication with customers to align on logistics processes

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