This guide focuses on the Made in China and AliExpress wholesale marketplaces to give you all the actionable knowledge you need to find the best supplier for your dropshipping business on these platforms.
This ultimate Made in China vs. Alibaba guide focuses primarily on their similarities, differences, pros and cons, and which one is better based on your needs.
To ensure you can comprehensively grasp the roles these two players play in the wholesale marketplace, let us briefly look at who they are and what they do.
Table of Contents
Made in China vs. Alibaba: A Differences Overview
|Differences||Made in China||Alibaba|
|History||Founded in 1998||Founded in 1999|
|Customer service||4+ stars customer service rating||2+ stars customer service rating|
|On scale||Products in over 3800+ categories, with no known subsidiaries||No product category limitations and has other well-known subsidiaries that are part of the Alibaba Group|
|On business||No subsidiary businesses or services||More partners and diversified business portfolio, subsidiaries, and services|
|Reputation||Made in China has a lower reputation than Alibaba (2.2 stars)||Alibaba has a better general reputation (4.2 stars)|
|Suppliers||Mostly Chinese supplier||Suppliers from all over Asia|
|Product category||Focuses on Industrial and construction products||Covers all products, including industrial and construction|
|Payments||Paid Secure Trading Service escrow system (costs $29.99 to $89.99)||Free-to-use Trade Assurance escrow system|
|Product price||Made in China may be more expensive than on Alibaba||Offers the best pricing and bulk products at a very low price|
|Quality||Usually has bad reviews about product quality||Offers product inspection services and Trade Assurance, enhancing product quality|
|MOQ||On Made in China, the general MOQ is 500 items||Alibaba has a generally flexible MOQ|
|Delivery Time||Made in China does not have a well-outlined shipping and delivery time policy||By air, the delivery will be between 3 to 10 days and 30 to 60 days if by sea|
|Customize products and private labels||Available||Available in more product categories than Made in China|
|Fakes and false advertising||Offers Trade Assurances, but with an access fee||Offers Trade Assurance and Product Inspection Services freely|
|Active buyers||Plenty of active suppliers and buyers, but not as many as Alibaba||More than 550 million annual active suppliers and buyers|
|Customer reviews||2.68 stars from 34 reviews||4.58 stars from 12,974 reviews|
|Return policy||The products are returnable within seven days of receipt||Buyers must submit a return request within 30 days|
|Shipping||Ships to fewer countries||Alibaba ships to 190 countries and has a more comprehensive list of shipping agents|
Now let’s get into the interesting part:
Part 1: Made in China: A Brief Introduction
Made in China is a platform operated by Focus Technology Co, Ltd.
The platform links buyers from around the globe with Chinese suppliers. It boasts a large variety of suppliers in 27 industries varying from the agricultural and food industry to the metallurgy, mineral, and mining industry to the arts and crafts industry.
Made in China does not sell products. It only offers a platform where buyers can reach out to supplier members who provide the products available on the platform.
Part 2: Alibaba: A Brief Introduction
Jack Ma, the group’s co-founder, describes Alibaba as an ecosystem that empowers others to sell products and services through the provided technology and innovation.
The platform boasts around 10 million sellers from all over Asia and uses internet technology to link a broad spectrum of suppliers with buyers from all over the globe.
On Alibaba, the suppliers and manufacturers sell their products in bulk at wholesale prices to mostly retailers for reselling at local market prices. Alibaba has three main sites under its umbrella.
- AliExpress: AliExpress started as a B2B buying and selling platform but is now also a B2C platform, with many sellers on the platform now selling to retailers and consumers at affordable prices.
- Taobao: Taobao is mainly a C2C site.
- TMall: TMall is a B2C site that facilitates foreign suppliers to sell to Chinese buyers.
Part 3: Made in China vs. Alibaba: The Similarities
Made in China and Alibaba have core similarities worth noting. They include:
- Both B2B platforms are online trading platforms that link suppliers -mostly Chinese suppliers— with the global market.
- Both B2B platforms link Chinese suppliers with buyers from all around the globe.
- Many Chinese suppliers have accounts on both platforms.
- Both B2B platforms work with international online payment systems such as PayPal, making both platforms convenient for global shoppers and business owners.
- Both B2B platforms make transactions safer by protecting the buyer throughout the buying process.
Part 4: Made in China vs. Alibaba: The Differences
The main differences between Made in China and Alibaba are:
Alibaba Group owns Alibaba. Jack Ma —and others— founded it in 1999, but the group has gone on to become one of the biggest technology companies in China.
Although based in China, Alibaba serves business in 190+ countries and regions and 40+ industries with over 5,900 different categories of product offerings.
MADE IN CHINA was launched in 1998, a year after Alibaba. It is one of the leading online B2B sourcing marketplaces.
#: Customer service
Reviews from buyers satisfied with Alibaba most frequently mention customer service. Alibaba tops the customer-service ranks among sourcing sites and is #no 1 as a sourcing site.
Made in China ranks lower among sourcing sites and has a 2-star service rating on average.
#: On a scale
Scale-wise, Alibaba is larger than Made in China because Alibaba has no industry, category, or product limitations: it has every type of product or product category you can imagine.
On its part, Made in China keeps up with Alibaba —barely— by offering products in over 3,800+ categories, which, although impressive, is modest compared to Alibaba.
#: On business
Compared to Made in China, Alibaba has a more diverse portfolio, subsidiaries, and ventures beyond B2B.
Alibaba has partners in the tech industry and many other services like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and entertainment.
Made in China does not have as many subsidiary businesses or services.
Most B2B platforms face similar challenges —think of scammers, counterfeit goods, low-quality products, and shipping delays. However, because of its stringent buyer protection and customer service, Alibaba has a better general reputation and customer rating than Made in China.
Both sites share tons of Chinese suppliers. However, on Alibaba, suppliers are from all over Asia, whereas Made in China focuses on Chinese suppliers.
#: Product category
Alibaba has a broader product category, including consumer goods, whereas Made in China is more product-specific and focuses on Industrial and construction products.
Both Alibaba and Made in China have an Escrow payment system, where, upon payment, the platform holds the money until the buyer receives and okays goods and product quality. Alibaba refers to its system as Trade Assurance, whereas Made in China calls its system STS (Secure Trading Service).
The main difference between the two escrow payment systems is that Made in China charges an STS fee ranging from $29.99 to $89.99.
Alibaba has a secure payment portal, a feature that attracts buyers and sellers alike because of the safety of personal information. Over and above the Trade Assurance program that assures product quality, Alibaba also offers Product Inspection Services.
#: Product price
Alibaba is popular for having the best pricing and bulk products listed at a very low price because of the sheer volume of suppliers on the website. Products on Made in China may be more expensive than on Alibaba.
PRO TIP: When buying wholesale, always negotiate with the suppliers for better prices, irrespective of whether you’re sourcing from Made In China or Alibaba.
Through Trade assurance, Alibaba has ensured that products sold by suppliers are exactly what the buyer wants. Alibaba does this by holding the payment in escrow until the buyer okays the order by showing satisfaction with the purchased products. As mentioned before, Alibaba also offers Product Inspection Services.
With all these measures in place, internet scammers and counterfeit products are still a real problem for the website. Jack Ma describes the rise in counterfeits on the popular B2B website as “a cancer.” As such, do your due diligence when reaching out to suppliers on the site.
Made In China has various negative reviews online, some of which pertain to the low quality of the product bought.
This may be due to the simple supplier registration process on the website that allows anyone to register as a supplier. Due to the lax background checks of the suppliers, it is easy for trading companies to register as manufacturers. The Diamond Grade Supplier System also has a major flaw because suppliers of good, low, or high-quality products can get diamond grades.
The MOQ on items on both websites is low and manageable. Throughout the purchase process, the buyer can communicate the number of products needed with the supplier in the bargaining process. The MOQ on both platforms heavily depends on the supplier and the type of product in question. Alibaba has a generally flexible MOQ where many items sold singularly cost the same as in bulk. On Made in China, the general MOQ is 500 items.
#: Delivery time
Product shipping from China normally depends on various factors, such as whether the product is from Mainland China or Guangzhou and the delivery method —whether air, sea, train, or road.
Alibaba offers ready-to-ship products and different shipping options depending on the buyer’s preference. By air, the delivery will be between 3 to 10 days and 30 to 60 days if by sea.
On the other hand, Made in China does not have a well-outlined shipping and delivery time policy on its FAQ page:
#: Customized Products & Private Labels
Both Alibaba and Made in China have millions of products listed as customizable. However, Alibaba has a more diverse list of products.
#: Fakes and False Advertising
Alibaba has both Trade Assurance and Product Inspection Services that guarantee that the supplier only receives the buyer’s funds when the buyer shows complete satisfaction with the goods.
Made in China has a similar buyer protection system, STS, but the buyer pays a fee to access it.
#: Active Buyers
The sheer volume of suppliers (10 million-plus) on Alibaba ensures that hundreds of millions of active buyers are on the site at any given moment. On average, every 1 out of 5 members on Alibaba is an active buyer. The site has more than 550 million annual active consumers.
Although Made in China has many active buyers, they are not as many as Alibaba because the suppliers and industries are more specialized.
#: Customer Reviews
Alibaba has a buyer rating of 4.58 stars from 12,974 reviews:
Made-in-China has a buyer rating of 2.68 stars from 34 reviews:
#: Return policy
On Made in China, the products are returnable within seven days of receipt, and the buyer pays for the return postage.
On Alibaba, buyers must submit a return request within 30 days after receipt of the product.
Alibaba ships to 190 countries and has a more comprehensive list of shipping agents depending on the buyers’ preferences than Made in China.
Part 5: Made in China vs. Alibaba: Which One Is The Best Choice?
The reality is that both platforms are great, depending on your needs.
Why Choose Made in China: A Buyer’s Perspective
Choose Made in China when you want:
Made in China is a public traded company in Shenzhen that limits the type of products they offer on their platform, the top five industries you can find on the Made in China platform are:
- Health and medicine
- Industrial equipment and components
- Light industry and deco
Made in China has the following alluring membership benefits:
- Diamond Club: Professional buyers can join the Diamond Club because it offers personalized service to the buyers on the platform, an opportunity to network with other players in the same industry, and an in-person service in case you choose to visit the supplier.
- Star Buyer Membership Program: This is a three-tier membership program. Once you register at level 1, you need to answer the following questions to upgrade to level 2:
- What is your business type
- How frequently do you buy?
- What is your annual volume?
Once you upgrade to level 2, you get an automated sourcing assistant, tailored matching supplier service, and free STS for your first purchase order.
To upgrade to level 3, you must have annual sales above $5 million. Here, you get VIP service, including in-person services when visiting suppliers.
Made in China also has a once-a-month members day on the 9th, where members get coupons, free samples, and access to business reports.
Why Choose Made in China: A Seller’s Perspective
As a seller, the greatest advantage offered by the Made in China platform is its product specificity module that ensures product visibility to interested buyers.
Why Choose Alibaba: A Buyer’s Perspective
Alibaba is a China-based global conglomerate that owns various B2B, B2C, and C2C platforms and other ventures under its umbrella.
Alibaba ranks first as the best sourcing platform and generally has better consumer reviews than most other sourcing sites.
It has a wider variety and diverse product portfolio and offers services other than B2B.
At a glance, the many buyer platforms under Alibaba include:
- 1688.com (China)
- Alibaba.com (global)
Cross-Border and Global Marketplaces
- Tmall Global
Chinese Retail Marketplaces
- Rural Taobao
- Taobao Marketplace
Why Choose Alibaba: A Supplier’s Perspective
As a supplier, you should choose Alibaba because of:
Access to a larger customer base
Alibaba supplies products to more than 190 countries and has an average of 550 million active buyers annually.
Trustworthy sourcing platform
Alibaba ranks first as a sourcing platform. This means consumers who access the platform are likely to purchase goods through it because of the positive customer testimonials and reviews.
Protected payment procedures
Suppliers do not have to worry about their private information and bank details being compromised on/through the platform because Alibaba has a secure payment portal and feature.
User-friendly interface, easy to use by sellers
The platform is user-friendly and straightforward regarding registration as a supplier. It is also easy to use.
When choosing a sourcing platform, it is important to do your research. Thorough research ensures you have a positive buyer experience and receive quality goods on time.