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What is Cross-Border E-Commerce, its advantage, and how does it work?

In China, there are two main ways to sell products; through general trade; and through Cross-Border E-Commerce (CBEC). CBEC involves the sale of e-commerce products across borders and through online platforms. It is one of the corner stones of the Chinese government’s strategy to increase the volume and quality of imports and exports. Through CBEC, after Chinese customers make an order, the products are shipped individually in one of the following ways:

  • Direct import pattern: goods are shipped from overseas warehouses to Chinese consumers, after an order is made on an e-commerce platform
  • Bonded warehouse import pattern: goods are shipped anytime by overseas companies, and stored in a bonded warehouse in mainland China; after an order is made on an e-commerce platform, goods go through customs clearance and are shipped from the bonded warehouse to the final consumer in China.

The main advantage of CBEC is that it provides easier access to the Chinese market for European brands, and it is an effective way to first test the product in the Chinese market and collect feedback before making more costly investment decisions. This is because goods sold via CBEC are considered personal goods and therefore granted customs clearance, without the need of pre-registering the product and obtaining relevant certifications or licences. Therefore, CBEC is particularly important for those product categories with strict compliance requirements such as cosmetics, infant formula and health nutrients. In addition, goods sold via CBEC enjoy preferential import tax policies.

However, only products included in a dedicated Catalogue of Products Authorised for Retail Import via Cross-Border E-commercecan be sold via CBEC. There currently are 1,441 items in the list (see; as well as the last 2022 adjustments:

An unofficial translation English of the Catalogue can be provided by the EU SME Centre upon request (please use the ‘ask-the-expert’ function).