What options for quality control in China?
If you place very large orders for production in China, quality control fees will amount to a very small proportion of the sums at stake.
In this case you should pay for the most comprehensive QC solutions, or you are definitely "penny wise, pound fool".
Now let's say your orders rarely exceed 10,000 USD, and your market is so competitive that you have to live with a thin margin. You can't pay the same amount of QC fees, right? But does it mean you should forget about covering yourself?
It is a fact that a minority of shipments from China to the US or to Europe are controlled in the factory. I think this is a pity. Many importers think "either I pay X amount of dollars for safety, or I take a risk and I get to keep my money."
The truth is, there are always intermediary quality control options. Purchasers should pay as much as they can for QC, and here are their options:
Regarding product inspections:
Solutions range from "very risky" to "best":
So, can you afford the "best" option? If so, go for it. If not, go for the "better" option. And so on.
Similarly, can you pay for the "best" option for in-process and final inspections? If not, go for the "best" during production and the "better" before shipment.
Regarding testing of product safety:
The logic is exactly the same:
Note: some quality assurance firms help their clients decrease their testing fees, by using local accredited laboratories. Savings can be up to 30%.
Regarding supplier qualification:
Once again, same logic:
This is probably the least-understood process in the typical importer's activity.
Trusting "good contacts", choosing the booth with the best-looking samples, or chasing the lowest price, will definitely get you trouble pretty fast. The best alternative is to follow a professional supplier qualification process, from identification to screening and finally confirmation.