5 tips to help you effectively communicate with Chinese suppliers

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August 30, 2018

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When starting out as entrepreneurs, a lot of individuals turn to China in search of Chinese suppliers. Even though the comparative cost of manufacturing in China has risen in the last few years, China is still the cheapest location for global retailers and manufacturers to source goods or parts for their businesses.

There are many advantages of sourcing goods from Chinese suppliers including the availability of affordable quality goods. However, Chinese suppliers also come with their own sets of challenges that can be hard to deal with especially if you are a first-time shipper.

Despite the highly globalized nature of today’s contemporary world, it is still very common to hear horror stories about communication difficulties as well as the presence of low quality Chinese goods.  When dealing with any international supplier, the cultural differences can impact everything from your communication styles to the way you handle businesses relationships. So how do you communicate effectively with Chinese suppliers?

How to communicate effectively with Chinese suppliers

China plays a serious role in the buy and make segments at the start of the supply chain. Therefore, building effective relationships along the supply chain is vital if you want your business to achieve superior sourcing performance. To make sure that you are doing it correctly, here is how to avoid communication problems with Chinese suppliers:

Know how to handle the language barriers

If you are going to work with Chinese suppliers, you will soon find out that to Chinese businessmen, giving the answer ‘no’ to a client is never an option. Therefore, if you ask a supplier if they are capable of meeting your demands or deadlines, they will say that they are capable of meeting deliverables -even when they can’t.

However, you will soon find out in the process, sometimes when it is too late, that the supplier is incapable of meeting your needs. To deal with this, always simplify your language when dealing with suppliers or their various sales representatives. Always use straightforward responses and explanations and use common words that are easily understood.

Avoid sending long and complicated emails, because it will only worsen the communication. When sending emails, try and use bullet points and numbering systems so that the order of the tasks and components of the projects are easy to follow.

Be very, very clear with Chinese Suppliers

If you are ordering samples from China, it is very pertinent that you are clear with what you want. This means giving precise product specifications, rather than sending a picture of what you want your product to look like.

Be specific with the information that you provide, that is, provide spec sheets, the designs/drawings, bill of materials, label files, and so on so as to get the best product possible. Remember to be direct (especially when you do not like something), but also respectful so as to smooth the process along.

Take charge of the process

Because almost everyone turns to China for low priced high-quality goods, Chinese manufacturers are used to working with experienced buyers. These buyers usually have their own way of doing things so Chinese suppliers usually expect you to take charge of the entire process.

This means that you have to give the supplier explicit orders on everything that you expect. You are also responsible for sending and drafting sales agreements and executing the quality control. If you take a step back, the supplier will take a long time meeting your needs- it is up to you to push Chinese suppliers on a day to day basis until you get what you want.

Expect resistance

As you manage the purchase process, you should expect to face some resistance from the supplier when it comes to your demands. Often, a lot of buyers become scared that they will offend a supplier particularly if they have never done business with them before.

Chinese suppliers operate in an incredibly competitive environment, which means that they are not in the business of making friends- and they are certainly not on your side. If they smell weakness, they will come for you without a second thought.

To derail the process, you will often come across responses like ‘you don’t need a product certificate because not even European buyers requested it or ‘we will not sign a sales contract because that is not how things are done in China or the common ‘no, you do not need a quality control or lab test’.

Rather than get scared off by these comebacks, always deflect their negative answers by referring to company policy or state that your instructions come from higher up. Chinese supplier respect hierarchy and if you stick to your guns, you might just get what you deserve.

Always supplement your emails with video chat

When dealing with Chinese suppliers, your emails will not always be replied. When Chinese suppliers respond to emails, they tend to respond promptly to their regular and most important customers and not to the endless requests that come in from small time prospective customers. To open the lines of communication, you should also use video chat to access your supplier directly at any point of the day. Platforms such as WeChat, Skype and QQ are popularly used when communicating with Chinese suppliers.


When it comes to Chinese suppliers, it is best to accept that things might not always go your way, especially in the beginning. Of course, there are limits as to what you should tolerate from these suppliers, but in general, you should expect minor delays and constant adjustment of prices.

Heard any interesting stories of Chinese manufacturers? Have some advice for other entrepreneurs to help ease the pain of communicating with Chinese suppliers? Any questions about importing goods from China? Leave your comments below or contact us today to learn about our freight forwarding services.



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