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Operating Online

Understand your product label requirements when selling in China

March 22,2017 | Andy Clayton

1.4 billion Chinese consumers can be an incredibly lucrative market when selling online, however, there are some key considerations you'll need to make around local requirements and fulfilment to Chinese consumers through e-commerce, to ensure your product gets through customs and to your end customer with ease.


China has its own, specific requirements for product labels which must be adhered to when importing into the country.


Depending on the product category, local, compliant labels must be created (understand China import requirements more fully here). These requirements can vary across categories but are particularly stringent in areas including:


Food and Drink


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Some products, such as electricals, in addition to labels, can also require safety checks and a China Compulsory Certification (CCC)


Product labelling rules in China are stringent, mistakes can be costly.


If labels aren't 100% compliant, products can find themselves being held in customs. The rules can be incredibly rigid, for example:


Working with a client to import a sports beverage, to ensure compliance with Chinese law, amongst other things, 5 key nutritional elements must be in bold or a larger font on the Chinese back label.


Despite providing 100% compliant label soft copies, the label manufacturer left these elements in the same format as everything else. This small oversight resulted in goods being held up at Shanghai Customs.


20,000 cans were threatened with being destroyed.


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After negotiating locally with customs, compliant back labels were reprinted and hand stuck on, ensuring they could be cleared. While this carried additional costs in extra storage and labeling fees, the alternative could have been much worse.


The smallest, most innocuous looking elements can have the biggest impact when clearing customs - we would always recommend working with a local, trusted partner to ensure compliance, with people on the ground to smooth out disputes and issues with Chinese customs.


The significant exception to the Chinese labelling rule is for goods sold through Cross Border E-Commerce.

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Cross Border E-Commerce (CBEC) is a special goods clearance channel that allows foreign companies to sell directly to Chinese consumers. It is a particular category of customs clearance designed between Chinese customs, tax, and the large e-commerce platforms, to expedite purchase of overseas goods by Chinese consumers (see popular products and countries here).


Currently, Western companies can sell a large range of goods through CBEC, without having to add local labels, making it a valuable channel with which to test the market, prior to importing large amounts to fulfil locally.


There is regular discussion as to whether this channel will continue in its current form, though if recent growth rates in this sector are anything to go by, the opportunity has probably passed for China to place large or sudden restrictions on this category of sales.


For companies that are exploring the opportunities to sell online, our E-commerce fulfilment report answers questions clearly to set up robust processes in China that work when fulfilling online sales.


importing into china