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Buying online in China.

Popularity 5Viewed 16537 times 2015-5-30 12:19 |Personal category:Living in China|System category:Life| taobao, internet in China

While the Chinese economy is slowing down its pace due to a big shift in the country’s development direction, people might see some changes happening right in front of their eyes. Air-polluting Industries, a long-term concern for every China’s dweller, are finally getting out of the cities, leaving a path for other economically profitable sectors to flourish. Nowadays, the Internet is undoubtedly a huge contributor to the Chinese economy. While in China, you can’t help seeing people around you, your Chinese classmates, Chinese colleagues or friends, frequently making purchases on the Internet. In fact, buying things online is not that complicated. However, it possesses a certain trouble for those who don’t speak Chinese. What should a non-Chinese speaking expat consider when buying things from taobao, getting a train or plane ticket online, or using your WeChat to buy coupons for food in the restaurants?


The first thing that one needs to prepare before diving into online shopping is an online banking account. Many Chinese websites refuse to accept foreign credit cards, so you will need to get the local bank card. There are numerous branches of Chinese banks in every city, the biggest of which are Bank of Communication 【交通银行】,ICBC Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, 中国工商银行】,ABC Agricultural Bank of China, 中国农业银行】,Bank of China 【中国银行】and a couple more. There is not much difference between every bank but what matters is how close it is to the place where you live. If there is any problem related to your card you will need to go to the very branch around your area where you got the card from. Don’t forget to take your passport with you, other documents are not needed. The procedure is very simple: you hand in your passport and in some cases 10 to 50 yuan as a card deposit, and wait until the bank assistant finishes the whole registration process. Ask the bank assistant to help you get the online banking account. It goes together with a USB that you will further use for purchasing online.  Later, you will need to proceed with the registration on the website of the bank you got your account from.


After successfully gaining a bank card and online banking account, you are one step closer to mastering taobao. Registration there doesn’t take much time, it comes to filling in your username, password, telephone number. The system will send you a message with the a number to your telephone that you will also have to type in. And after that, the registration is considered successful.  Also, it is advised to get an Alipay account, or 支付宝, that can be done directly on the website. The money is transferred from your bank account that makes the whole process of purchasing online less time-consuming. Sometimes, it is necessary to communicate with the shopkeeper before you decide to pay. The huge online marketplace taobao has its own special language. Don’t be surprised when shopkeepers will be calling you “dearie”, or in Chinese, and refer to the things you buy as “treasures” or 宝贝. Always pay attention to the amount of positive feedbacks from the buyers. Recently, a new regulation went into effect: online shoppers can now return opened goods within seven days and get a full refund which will contribute a lot to the trust increasing between both the shopkeeper and the buyer.


Another convenience that Chinese internet offers is the opportunity to buy train and plane tickets without leaving the comfort of one’s home or office. However, the ticket rush prior to the Spring Festival and the National Holidays is a matter of concern for a traveller since during that time tickets are sold out like hot pies.


The plane tickets can be purchased on,, or official websites of air companies: for China Southern Airlines, for Hainan Airlines, for Air China. The websites allow you to switch the language to English. The procedure of buying a plane ticket is very similar to buying on taobao: registration, then pay with either Alipay or money on your online banking account, but in this case, you will need the USB. Master Card and Visa are also acceptable.


However, according to the recent trend, more and more people nowadays prefer trains to planes, especially with the widening net of high speed railway across China. Chinese HSR is the longest one in the world and  can compete with its Western counterparts in service. The pre-sale time of China train tickets is 60 days prior to departure and pre-sale period at railways stations come up to 58 days ahead of departure. The passport is required when you buy the tickets as well as when boarding the train.


Buying tickets at the train stations or ticket outlets might be a painful experience, especially during the peak seasons. So purchasing them online is a perfect option for those who are unwilling to queue in a line. If you got your tickets online, it must be collected at the railway station at the day of departure or any other day prior to departure. Some websites offer a ticket delivery service. The most common website for buying train tickets is the Chinese, with the only drawback – the content is all in Chinese. For registration, you will also have to provide the valid passport number and a phone number. Notice, that the payment should be made within 45 minutes with China UnionPay online banking account and tickets must be collected right at the railway station. Using the website all in Chinese language might be troublesome for foreigners with a bad command of Chinese, that is why there is  a number of the websites that are English-friendly:,,,, where you can also find the detailed instruction on how to buy train tickets.


But the computer is not the only device you can make online purchases. The popular websites,, offer the mobile apps which you can download for free for your cellphone and make a payment right there. Moreover, with the help of WeChat, one can recharge money on the telephone, use it to store you money as the interest is higher than in the bank, call a taxi, buy plane and train tickets and buy coupons for certain food in the restaurants with attractive discount.


The ability to use the internet in the right way is a key to more free time. A click of a mouse will make your life easier and help you to invest your time and money more efficiently. The ethereal world of Internet, just like the world around us, is changing rapidly. All we need to do is to embrace the new changes. Stay up-to-date!

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (1 comments)

Reply Report Mishao 2018-12-7 05:16
Sorry, no electronic purchases for this guy.

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