Check online reviews.
If you located a supplier on an Internet sourcing platform, you may be able to read reviews from past customers to see if there are any complaints. Review supplier websites and follow up by telephone. You should review the information on the supplier’s website, but do not forget to pick up the phone to call the number listed on the website and ask for additional information. Some suppliers do not have websites, but that is not necessarily a deal breaker. There can be many reasons that a supplier may not have what we think of as a necessary component of a business. So keep an open mind — but keep your eyes open, too.
Verify its registration and certification.
If you obtained a list of potential suppliers that were verified by a big B2B platform (like a gold member at Alibaba), you may not need to verify the actual existence of the suppliers. Otherwise, you need to do further due diligence on the supplier in addition to your online background check.
Ask the supplier for a copy of its business license.
A Chinese business license will show the company’s name, address, legal representative, registered capital, and other official company information. Suppliers that refuse or are unable to provide their business licenses are probably not worth your time. Dump them if they refuse. Note that a Chinese business license is only written in Chinese, so you may need a Chinese speaker to assist you.
Verify the supplier’s local registration.
Local level Chinese governments have an agency called the Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC). The local AIC has official registration records of all companies in their local jurisdiction that can be accessed online. The official registration records include the company’s registration number, registered name, registered address, registered capital, business status, business scope, and other basic information on the company. Note that, most local AIC websites are in Chinese only, so you will need a Chinese speaker to assist you with this step as well. Be aware that the information on the local AICs may not be always up-to-date.
Visit a local AIC office.
To get the most accurate and updated registered information on your suppliers, you could hire a Chinese agency to visit a local AIC office in person to review the hard copy of a company’s official registration records.
Visit suppliers yourself.
You could go the extra mile to visit a few selected suppliers yourself. While it may seem like a lot of work at the beginning, it could pay off handsomely in the long run. When you talk to your potential suppliers face to face, you can often get a better sense of who they are as a person as well as assess whether they would be a good fit, even if you need a third party to facilitate the communications. During the meeting, you can inspect their facilities, ask questions about their production capacity, product quality-inspection process, R&D capacity, and other important business aspects.