E-Commerce in China
E-commerce in China: A Guide for Australian Business
What does China’s new e-commerce Law mean for Australian businesses?
- On 31 August 2018 the National People’s Congress announced the adoption
of China’s e-commerce Law (中华人民共和国电子商务法).
- This Law largely relates to the domestic operations of Chinese e-commerce
companies and the responsibilities of platform operators and merchants,
including individual sellers. The main purpose is to ensure sustainable
development and sound regulation of e-commerce business in China, including
protecting consumer rights.
The Law, which totals 7 chapters and 89 articles, covers topics such as intellectual property (IP) protection, e-commerce promotion, contracts and dispute resolution,
packaging and waste management, anti-competitive behaviour, consumer rights
and legal liabilities. Details on specific regulations and policies under
this Law are yet to be announced.
- All merchants selling online in China, including individuals and
companies based in China and abroad will need to register for an online
selling certificate to be displayed in their online store.
Income generated by domestic and international sellers may be reported to
relevant authorities via platform owners. Setting higher barriers to entry
for the establishment of online stores is likely aimed at improving the
overall integrity of existing e-commerce platforms.
Austrade continues to support Australian merchants, brands and suppliers
and Chinese importers, distributors and retailers that are operating
legitimately in the e-commerce space in China.
Does the new Law affect existing cross-border e-commerce (CBEC)
- China’s e-commerce Law applies broadly to the business of selling
commodities or providing services through the Internet or other information
networks. Specific references in the Law to CBEC are high level, and relate
largely to legal and administrative obligations by platform operators. The
existing CBEC policies relate to the application of various postal and
consumption tax rates as well as individual purchase limits that were
announced in the ‘Notice on Taxation Policies for CBEC Retail
- Rumours of impending changes to the current CBEC regime have not been
substantiated; this includes changes to the treatment of cosmetics,
skin-care, infant formula or health products. Austrade does not expect any
substantial changes to CBEC policies in the lead up to the China
International Import Expo (CIIE) in November.
While cross-border e-commerce remains an attractive channel to promote,
market and sell products to Chinese buyers, Australian exporters are
advised to register their products with Chinese authorities where possible,
to mitigate the impacts of regulatory changes.
How does CBEC work?
Bonded warehouse mode
Products on two lists of 1,293 HS codes can be imported into one of 15
approved CBEC bonded warehouse zones across China or shipped from an
overseas distribution centre linked to Chinese customs authorities. These ‘positive
lists’ include packaged foods, UHT milk, infant formula and wine. Goods can
be imported in bulk through this channel and packed locally for final
A flat tax of 11.9 per cent is applied to the final online retail price at
the time of purchase (calculated as a 30 per cent discount on VAT). A
discounted rate of consumption tax also applies to:
luxury goods (14 per cent)
cosmetics (14 per cent)
wine (21 per cent)
Individual consumers are permitted to buy up to RMB2,000 worth of such
goods per order, up to a limit of RMB20,000 per year.
Until the end of a grace period on 31 December 2018, products on these lists
will generally not be required to comply with China’s product standards and
import regulations. Products
must be legally sold in Australia.
Postal and courier mode
Products can also be shipped directly from overseas merchants (B2C) and
individuals (C2C) to China via the postal and courier system. This
includes products not on the bonded warehouse positive lists.
Similar to the bonded warehouse model, these products are generally exempt
from the requirement to be pre-registered with Chinese authorities. No
announcement has been made by Chinese authorities as to how long this exemption
Products entering China via this method are subject to the following
personal postal tax rates:
- Food, beverage, healthcare, toys, furniture: 15 per cent
- Sporting equipment (except for golf and accessories), fishing equipment,
shoes, clothing: 30 per cent
Wine, jewelry, golf equipment and accessories, watches and cosmetics: 60 per cent
Advice for exporters
An overview of common regulations is contained on page 40 of the Austrade
publication e-Commerce in China: A Guide for Australian Business.
This guide can be downloaded by filling in the form below.
Individual consumer products that are compliant with the relevant national
safety and quality (guobiao) standards and import quarantine protocols, can
be registered online with the China Import and Export Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.
While many packaged food products sold in Australia will already be
compliant with China’s relevant food standards (and can be registered with
minimal cost), these measures are independent of Australia’s domestic
system and are not a part of the
China Australia Free Trade Agreement. Special rules apply to fresh produce, health food, cosmetics and infant
The exact regulatory requirements differ according to each product, and
exporters are strongly encouraged to seek professional advice from an
import agent, a logistics company, law firm or regulatory affairs advisory.
The E-commerce in China: A Guide for Australian Business offers practical advice, facts and insights on how China’s e-commerce marketplaces work and how to access them.
If you would like to download a copy of the guide, please fill out the form below. This publication is intended for use by Australian businesses and a valid ABN is required to download the guide.