Sourcing in China: 3 challenges to overcome

sourcing in China
  • September 15, 2021

Sourcing in China requires knowledge of the Chinese business culture. The norms and ways of doing things are very different from many Western cultures.

If you can overcome these differences and challenges, you will be provided with many profitable and interesting opportunities.

In this article, you will learn about 3 contrasting ways of thinking and how to be ready for them.

Challenge no. 1: “Yes” contains different meanings

When talking about Chinese culture it is a well-known myth that “yes” does not mean the same there as here in Western cultures.

A more accurate explanation is that the word has different meanings. If you want to be assured that a “yes” is fully valid, you need the following 3 answers:

  1. “Yes, I have heard the message.”
  2. “Yes, I have understood the message.”
  3. “Yes, I have accepted the message.”

Take these into account every time you talk to someone, and you are ready for the business deal.

Challenge no. 2: Getting the basics right

The Chinese are hard and aggressive salespeople, and they do what they can to make a profit. We, in Western businesses, are picky and have very high requirements.

These factors can easily end up in conflicts. The Chinese find us unreasonably demanding, and we find the Chinese suppliers dishonest.

To avoid this possible conflict, you should carefully research your new supplier before going into business with them.

Firstly, you should always visit the factory to get an impression of the company and how they do business. Test the company by comparing pictures from their website with reality. If the pictures are clearly taken somewhere else, you know not to trust the supplier.

In this case, you should decline a cooperation based on the criteria that are not met. Optionally, you can ask them to improve and fix the issues. Communicate your needs and tell them that you are open for business if these are met.

Challenge no. 3: Different standards of quality

Many Chinese manufacturers run by the “good enough principle”. This means that if they believe that a certain component meets its functionality requirements, it must be good enough.

Especially if your components must be identical with the drawings, this can be a challenge and lead to many conflicts.

Dimensional issues are easy to settle. Inaccuracies can be measured. If the component does not have the correct measurement, it must be adjusted.

Cosmetic issues on the other hand are more difficult to deal with because of the subjectivity in the matter. The quality of colour and surface treatment can be valued and judged differently.

That is why constant and close communication with the manufacturer is important for the results.

Chinese supplier – not suited for long-distance relationships

Sourcing from China requires that you are there. You have to meet your suppliers face-to-face before you start, and you should repeatedly follow up to ensure that product and quality requirements are met.

Once you have established a relationship with a reliable and quality-conscious supplier, you are well on your way to a great product.

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