by Yonatan Fried
China is such a vast country, we can sometimes forget that it borders 14 countries, and is roughly the size of the USA. But, as opposed to the USA having 330 million citizens, China has more than 4 times of that amount, with 1.4 billion citizens. An interesting fact to understand from this, is that even though China is so large, and has so many citizens, about 60% of the population live scattered throughout China’s coastline. That means that almost 840 million people live across 10 coastline provinces spanning more than 3000 km. In fact, some of these provinces have seaside city’s so large that they are regarded as sub-provinces. Most of China’s Economic activities are handled in these provinces, where large ports import and export an unfathomable amount of goods.
That said, according to the Chinese Academy of Science, the largest port in the world in 2021-2022 (by the amount of goods) is Shanghai Port. And, out of the 10 largest ports in the world 7 are located on the Chinese coastline. Among those ports, we can find Ningbo, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Hong Kong, and Tianjin.
If doing business in China interests you, and you want to enter the Chinese market, you might want to be aware of its geography, these 10 coastline provinces, and the ports they hold. As these Ports are a major part of the Chinese and world supply chain.
Because of this, we have made a short list, showcasing China’s 5 largest and most important ports:
China’s largest ports:
#5 Qingdao Port
- Province: Shandong
- City: Qingdao
- Main trade locations: North and South America, North and East Asia.
- Main Commodity: Oil Chemicals and natural resources
Qingdao Port is one of the largest and busiest ports in the world, as its strategic location in the Yellow Sea enables exporting and importing using Pacific Ocean routes. That is why the main countries that it trades with are Japan, South Korea, Chile, and East Russia. In the last 10 years the port has gone through extensive remodeling and today its 4 main docks are completely automized, as all the cranes and shipping and handling are done out of a central control system providing great ground for smooth logistics in China.
#4 Guangzhou Port
- Province: Guangdong
- City: Guangzhou
- Main trade locations: Southeast Asia and Africa
- Main Commodity: Agriculture and building materials
Guangzhou is the capital city of Guangdong province, and the 4th largest city in China. The location of the city and its main port ensures easy access to the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand. Guangzhou port is the largest port in southern China, and is connected via rail, roads, and water routes to most of China’s cities including Beijing. In fact, because of its location, the Guangzhou Port is the closest port to major industrial and rural cities such as Chongqing and Chengdu, helping the Guangzhou port become the largest port in China to transport agriculture and building materials. And, Close to this port, in the south of Guangzhou, is a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) which helps provide a large number of goods passing through the port itself.
#3 Shenzhen Port
- Province: Guangdong
- City: Shenzhen
- Main trade locations: Europe, North America, and China.
- Main Commodity: Technology.
The city of Shenzhen is close to Guangzhou, both cities are located on the estuary of the Pearl River and enjoy easy access to the South Chinese Sea and Indian Ocean routes. In the 90s Shenzhen was declared a Special Economic Zone, as a result, the city attracted a lot of technology companies that have helped the city be known as the hi-tech capital of China. Shenzhen Port is built out of a few smaller ports that are combined into one large one, and it shares a coastline with the nearby city Hong Kong. In recent years, a high-speed railway between the cities was finished, providing a 15-minute commute between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, turning the two metropolitans into a mega city housing more than 20 million people. Shenzhen is a Smart city, with Skyscrapers decorating its skyline and special R&D zones for all the technology companies located in the city, 15 minutes away from Hong Kong, one of the world’s most important trading sites. Both the cities together provide one of the world’s most important areas for trading and technology.
#2 Ningbo-Zhoushan Port
- Province: Zhejiang
- City: Ningbo
- Main trade locations: International
- Main Commodity: Oil, gas, chemicals, and shipping container, FMCG, e-commerce
Ningbo Port, located in the southern area of Hangzhou Bay, is connected to almost all of the provinces in China, via rail, road, and air routes. The port is made up of smaller ports that each individually specializes in transporting different commodities. In fact, the port is so Important that Ningbo port has agreements with over 90 countries and 560 ports worldwide, which is why it is no surprise that it is an integral part of the supply chain in China and the world. Because of this, Ningbo enjoys having an FTZ in the port itself, specializing in oil and gas. In recent months because of the lockdowns in Shanghai and being only 150 km away, Ningbo Port has surpassed Shanghai Port as the busiest port in the world (According to the number of shipping containers).
#1 Shanghai Port
- Province: Shanghai
- City: Shanghai
- Main trade locations: International
- Main Commodity: Food and drinks, oil, gas, chemicals, technology, and shipping container
This List could not be complete without Shanghai port. And even though the city went through some tough lockdowns in the past half a year due to Covid, and a lot of the shipping containers were rerouted to Ningbo-Yangshan Port, Shanghai Port is still the largest port in China and the World (by metric tons). Furthermore, the Port in Shanghai enjoys the city’s international character, and its FTZs & Lù-jiā-zuǐ Financing center provides great business opportunities for international companies doing business in China or starting a business in China. Its strategic location and good foundations enable easy access for importing and exporting in China. Also, in recent years parts of the port were fully automated, helping the ports efficiency rating and having minimum mistakes.
In the last decade, technological developments and changes in the global supply chain have had an impact on the logistics needed for doing business in China. New roads, High-speed railways, and a digital renaissance have all affected the way to manage the Chinese supply chain.
Many international companies who export to China rely on the ports from the lists above, and on courier companies and local importing agents to ensure their commodities will arrive safely and help with local bureaucracy like up-to-date HS codes. But, from our experience, to ensure a continuous and successful workflow in any competitive market, you should invest and rely on a local service provider, that will take responsibility for fulfillment and distribution services in China for you.
Working with a company like ours has its advantages, as we provide logistic management and supply chain management, through both our finance department and logistic department, which are in constant contact and work together. Working in this way will be very helpful when estimating the cost of taxes, audits, licenses, fees etc., and promises efficiency when transferring funds, exchanging currency, and VAT refunds. This is the meaning of Multi-Disciplinary Management in China, which has its worth.
PTL Group provides Multi-Disciplinary Management in China for international companies who take part in the Chinese supply chain. Some of the solutions that we provide are importation process analysis and execution, warehousing and inventory control, RMB sales contract collection, credit control, invoicing and import/export VAT refund management, bonded and e-commerce warehouses + cross-border solutions, and many more.