Looking to export to China? Here’s what you need to know

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) partnered with the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Shanghai and San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI) to host a business roundtable centered on the opportunities and challenges of exporting to China. Whether a small to mid-sized San Diego business or a more experienced San Diego corporation, all businesses can leverage the opportunity to export to a growing Chinese market, even amid COVID-19 challenges.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. You’ll need to locally register your business

Local officials in China have enormous say in terms of registration, policies, and enforcement. Be proactive in reaching out to the local U.S Commercial Service and AmCham teams—these experts support businesses like yours every day and can help keep you from running in circles.

2. Find the right international partner to minimize challenges and delays

It’s crucial for your business to identify suitable business partners in China or in the international space to help you understand and overcome non-tariff barriers. COVID-19 restrictions have made this process extremely difficult and global partners anticipate that pandemic-related delays and challenges will persist for the next 12-24 months. Especially now, companies should make sure to seek out and lean on local partners to increase your chance of successfully breaking into the Chinese market.

3. Leverage target demographics and Gen Z trends

China’s Gen Z are increasingly driving social trends…and consumer purchases, thanks to their disposable income. While much of their focus remains on domestic Chinese brands, their digital savvy opens up opportunities for your company to get in front of a growing market that isn’t necessarily loyal to the brands of their parents’ time. SDSI also notes that Gen Z has driven particular interest in premium consumer goods, with a focus on action sports like skating following the 2020 Olympics.

Strategizing opportunities to promote your brand to the right audience on popular digital platforms like WeChat or leveraging the right polarizing figures can help drive your successful marketing.

4. Do the work to understand consumers and cultural differences

Understanding consumer demand at the tactical level (on the ground) is critical to your company’s success. To be seen as an attractive option for your customer base, keep in mind cultural and social norms outside the U.S. For example: Understanding and leveraging Chinese holidays and special events can mean success for your company, with the opportunity for high interest and ability to reach a large demographic…if you do your research.

With some preparation, San Diego companies can succeed in the current business climate.

Businesses that have had success in exporting to China tend to do the following five things:

  • Determine whether your company is ready to export.
  • Work with local, in-country partners that can help your company navigate COVID-19 and understand local restrictions.
  • Leverage local networks to provide guidance on legal issues, and introductions to vetted service providers.
  • Identify and connect companies with distributors and industry consortiums.
  • Obtain market intelligence that helps gain perspective on overall market climate for example, understanding China’s digital landscape.

Interested in growing your business internationally?

WTCSD is now accepting applications for its flagship export assistance program, MetroConnect. 15 companies will be selected to receive a $5,000 export grant, 7 curated export workshops, access to mentors, complimentary translation software, international flight discounts, PR and marketing support from WTCSD staff, and the chance to win a $25,000 grand prize. For questions, please reach out to Lucas Coleman (lc@sandiegobusiness.org). Apply by November 15


Founded in 1994 by the City of San Diego, Port of San Diego, and San Diego International Airport, World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) operates as an affiliate of San Diego Regional EDC. WTCSD works to further San Diego’s global competitiveness by building an export pipeline, attracting and retaining foreign investment and increasing San Diego’s global profile abroad. sandiegobusiness.org/wtcsd

AmCham Shanghai
The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, known as the “Voice of American Business” in China, was founded in 1915. AmCham Shanghai was the third American Chamber established outside the United States, and now has 3,000 members from 1,300+ companies. As a non-profit, non-partisan business organization, AmCham Shanghai is committed to the principles of free trade, open markets, private enterprise and the unrestricted flow of information.

SDSI is a nonprofit focused on the Sport and Active Lifestyle industries. Working with Executive Chairman and NBA great Bill Walton, its 100 company membership represents the “Southern California Lifestyle” and includes leading sports and technology brands, Nutrition and Yoga, Surf, Skate, Cycling, Golf and Retail, as well as some of San Diego’s best Service Companies. It focuses on relevant and actionable C-level content that benefits its member companies. SDSI’s award winning Accelerator program features a 20 week Mentoring curriculum whose graduates have raised $86 Million and have a 82% success record. For more info go to SDsportinnovators.org


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