Have you ever wondered how it is possible that most shipping from China is free?

I couldn’t understand how you can order a small item for just a few bugs and get all the way to Europe for free. It needs to be transported by plane, transported by car and hand over at my door. And all that for free?

Free shipping from China is probably the best reason why shopping in China is so interesting.

Why can shipping be free?

First we must have a look at the question why shipping can be free? It is not because they love you so much. As with everything in the world, nothing comes free. Let’s break down this free shipping to the reasons behind this ‘free’ thing.

  1. This sounds like a paradox, but free isn’t free. In the price you pay there is a percentage for the free shipping. This percentage is on all products. On more expensive products you pay more for shipping than for the cheaper products.
  2. There is a difference in economies between China and western countries. Labour in China costs less than in most other countries.
  3. China Post sends so much parcels, it has bulk order shipping rates with shipping agents all over the world.
  4. The shipping agents make clever use of the empty space on flights. The shipping costs are reduced to minimal this way.

These four points together make it possible to have these extremely low shipping costs.

If you search the Internet you might a fifth reason. Some people claim that the Chinese government is subsidizing the Chinese post system. For what I have found, this is not true.

Different shipping methods?

Many Chinese shops have a variety of shipping options. With different prices and different delivery times. You can divide these shipping methods in two groups: free or cheap services and expensive premium services.

Free and cheap services

The free and cheap services make use of the empty space on flights. This means that your parcel will stay in storage until there is a spot available. This extra space is randomly available.

The most used free and cheap services are China Post, Hongkong Post and Singapore Post.

If a Chinese retailer offers you free shipping, it is probably one of these companies. Calculate a long shipping time between 7 and 39 working days.

More expensive premium services

The more expensive services are premium western services. You pay much more for the shipping. This will be at least $ 30 and your parcel will have a reserved spot on the cargo flights (maybe next to a window).

Premium shipping companies are DHL, UPS. Fedex, EMS or Swiss Post.

The shipping time is 3-8 working days. This sounds great but…..

There is something you need to keep in mind.

The estimated shipping time is not the time that it will take to get your parcel from China. After your have ordered your product, your parcel needs to be processed in China. And the Chinese customs or your countries customs might hold the package for inspection. This makes the delivery time unpredictable. If you really need to have a product fast, don’t buy it in China.

My question to you is:

Have you ever paid for express or premium shipping?
And how fast did your parcel arrive?

Please write it down in the comment box below. And don’t forget to ‘Like’ and share this blog!


Founder of StartBuyingInChina. It all started as an hobby. I liked to categorize the few Chinese stores I knew. After 6 years over 150 blogs were published. I created a wonderful online course about Safe buying online in China, and served over 1.000.000 people. Thank you for being here!

    20 replies to "Is free shipping from China really free?"

    • uddy

      yes i have paid but it arrived within 7days

      • Bastiaan

        7 days isn’t that bad… 😉

    • Libuseng

      why are some sites shipping more expensive than others with same products with same destination?

    • Tcharlx

      My free shipping experience with dx.com was unpleasant. Uptill now. For 2years, I have not seen my orders. I got fedup after visiting my local postal service office all to no avail.

      • Bastiaan

        If you haven’t received it after 3 months, chances are little you will ever receive it…. 🙁

      • Larry

        I had the same problem with Everbuing I spent hundreds of $ shopping there and had a problem with a item I had bought I think it was less then $2.00 and it was a back& forth argument finally I just gave up on them but I still had other items that I had bought and they never did send them to me ( BEWARE BUYING THERE)

    • Chamara

      I have bought a few items like Five-Six of them on different occasions last year, All of them dirt cheap products with Free shipping to India from Aliexpress. I did not get any of the products. My friend to whom I suggested this website also Had the same problem. To these people really ship the products ? I did get the refund though.

      The tracking code they give all says reached India Airport, Nothing else. Howcome I not even get a single consignment?

      • Boris

        Hi Chamara, I have no experience with India. But te basics should be the same as China. The fact that they refunded your money indicates that it is a legitimate shop. But they have troubles with the transport. Which Indian shop was it?

    • Nancy

      Hallo Boris, I have a question about ‘payment options’ , some sites offer the option ‘online bank transfer’ with sofort for Belgium. Can u please explain this option, is it the same as online payment in Belgium with bankcontact/mistercash?? Also are the prices in dollars, is that a problem if I pay online??

      Alvast bedankt, groetjes

      • Bastiaan

        Hi Nancy,
        Sofort is an online bank transfer that works like Mistercash. Dollars shouldn’t be a problem. You will pay 1 or 2 percent for dollar/euro conversion in the back. But I would avoid bank transfers as much as possible because these payments can not be retransferred if something goes wrong. I would stay with Paypal or credit card. Only use bank transfers if you really trust the site. Otherwise, stay away.
        Graag gedaan 😉

    • amos

      I’ve bought on 2 occasions using express shipping via DHL ($40.00 each) and they all arrived in 4 days from AliExpress seller. I also thought of Hongkong has a free port so most orders shipped freely are channelled through that route. Maybe you can educate us more.

      • Boris

        Hi Amos,
        That’s really fast. Good to hear. I need to look into this free port part.

    • Sasho

      Well,that “free shipping”,from “deal extreme” was ordered on november 11.I still didn’t get that.Maybe it will arrive in june.

      • Boris

        Hi Sasho,
        2 months is really long. Did you contact DX yet? This is longer than 45 days and they refund policy of Paypal or your credit card might be closing or closed..

    • Bob


      I’m a frequent buyer from LITB and Aliexpress.
      The products I buy costs 1/3 of Dutch prices.
      I negociate with the sellers ( only Aliexpress ) about the shipping method and price.
      Mostly I choose UPS or DHL and shippingcosts are mostly about USD 15.

      There is one profit when you choose DHL or UPS, you got track and trace.

      With the cheap shippers, you have to wait and wait and wait when the parcel will arrive…

      And is free shipping free? It doesn’t matter for me, the product price makes it good. 🙂

    • Rick phillips

      Hey Boris, I would like your advice and input on, which company in China would be great and less complicated to create a drop ship program. I am presently into drop shipping and I really would like to order from china.

      • Boris

        Hi Rick,
        It all depends on the products you want to buy and resell. A lot of shops offer drop shipping.

    • Kyle

      I heard the government subsidized the posting to boost the economy. But now I think this is ridiculous. This would costs immensely amount of money. Thank you for this great insight!

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