April 2017 China Photo Blog – Factories, Canton Fair, and More

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Last month (April 2017 for people reading this at a later time) I flew to China for a couple of weeks to visit a few Suppliers I’ve recently began working with and for a conference in Hong Kong. Here’s a collection of photos I took over my 2 weeks while there.

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I flew direct from Vancouver to Beijing. I only spent 1 full day in Beijing but it was enough time to meet with a new Supplier, connect with another ecommerce friend, and, of course, to see my 爷爷 and 奶奶 (grandparents-in-law).

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One of the things I LOVE about going to China most is enjoying Chinese breakfasts, specifically when bought from street vendors like the Chinese Pancakes shown here. The major cities in China like Beijing are becoming nearly as expensive as major Canadian and American cities but street food is still dirt cheap. A delicious Chinese pancake is 5 Renminbi, or about $0.80.

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I flew down from Beijing to Shandong province. After a 2 hour delay while sitting in the runway (hint, never fly Beijing Capital Airlines – they’re notorious for being late) I finally arrived.  While there, I visited a factory (shown above) that I’ve been working for about a month on a new order of products. If there’s any proof of China’s growing wealth it’s that every year that I visit China the cars in factory parking lots get nicer and nicer.

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Two factory workers preparing a performance test for one of our products. A lot of seasoned importers group factories into three levels, Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, with Tier 1 being extremely professional and world-class, Tier 3 just being some women in a room sewing backpacks and Tier 2 being somewhere in between. In my experience, employee uniforms and clean surroundings are a pretty good indication of a Tier 2 factory or above meaning that they will generally produce pretty god quality products with minimal oversight. This factory was definitely Tier 2 or above.
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I flew with a Supplier down to Guangzhou to visit the Canton Fair. I let my Supplier book the hotel. I’ve been going to China long enough to know what I’m getting myself into when I let my Supplier book a hotel – it will be a very Chinese 3-star, or if I’m lucky, 4-star, hotel (which is more like a 2 to 2.5 star hotel by Western standards). This time I got the former which came complete with a very hard bed and a view overlooking a garbage-laden rooftop and the local Sinopec gas station. It didn’t phase me at all though especially when it was only about $40 a night (I had friends paying over $400 at the Westin).
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If you arrive at opening time (9:30AM) for the Canton Fair, be prepared for big lineups, as shown here as I waited to get into Phase 1 of the fair. If there’s one thing that the Chinese can handle though it’s huge crowds – it took less than 10 minutes to get through this huge queue.

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Sitting in a Supplier’s booth at the Canton Fair looking over their catalog. A Supplier’s products on display must always be taken with a pretty big grain of salt as these are there ‘best-of-the-best’ products (and potentially not even their products) and not necessarily reflective of their actual production quality. Regardless, you can get a pretty good feel for the Supplier’s capabilities, especially by talking to the people representing the booth.

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I came across this room buried at the bottom of the Pazhou Complex for people wishing to lodge complaints about IP infringement. I doubt ten years ago you would have seen such a thing. IP infringement is still a huge problem in China but it’s slowly (very slowly) getting better.

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I ended my time in Guangzhou by going for a light night massage (no, not THAT type of late night massage) with my Supplier and her colleague. When hanging out with Suppliers in China you can be sure of two things: 1) they’re going to take you out for a huge dinner, 2) afterwards they will either take you out for a night of heavy drinking or massage. If you prefer to skip the hangover in the morning, consider suggesting the massage instead of MaoTai.

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After a week in mainland China I made my way from Guangzhou to Hong Kong which is just a short 1 hour 55 minute trip via the high speed train (and about $35).  After a week in Mainland China, Hong Kong is absolutely refreshing, if for no other reason than that they have internet speeds that are faster than what you would get with a dialup 56k modem.

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While in Hong Kong me and 3 other ecommerce friends shared an Air BnB. The view from the 55nd floor was amazing, especially when it was only $250/night (or about $65 each). If you’re in Hong Kong I highly recommend this place we stayed at.

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Aside from staying and hanging out with some friends, my main goal while in Hong Kong was to visit the Global Sources Trade Show and Summit. The Summit got off to a slow start with a presenter or two who were guilty of being too self-promoting. However, the speakers consistently got better as the show went on and it was a nice to get some strategy and education before/after attending the Canton Fair.

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The Global Sources Summit ran in conjunction with the Global Sources Electronics and Homewares show. The electronics portion was of little use unless you were seeking to compare a thousand different cell phone case manufactuters but the homewares section of the show had some potential if only for the fact many of the exhibitors were not exhibiting at the Canton Fair.

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The buffet lunches during the Summit were FANTASTIC.

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The food outside of the Summit, specifically around Temple Street, was decent and very cheap, as long as you didn’t mind the occasional HUGE cockroach falling on your table.

This wrapped up my trip to China which was all-in-all very productive. I should be back in late September.


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