Executive Briefings

China Craves Foreign Goods, and Students in Australia Supply Them

Zhang Yuan's business started with favors for relatives: an aunt who wanted baby formula, a cousin looking for Ugg boots. She was a college student here in Australia, and every dollar helped, so she mailed the items back to China and charged a bit of a commission.

China Craves Foreign Goods, and Students in Australia Supply Them

But then, through word of mouth, her business just kept growing. Between classes, she would shop for whatever was popular that week: vitamins, brand-name jewelry, a fake erectile dysfunction drug called Kangaroo Essence. And when she could not find a more lucrative job after graduation, she stayed in Melbourne and in the booming gray market for selling Australian goods to Chinese consumers.

Her business now employs two buyers, two packers and two people in customer service, with offices in Melbourne and Hangzhou, her hometown in eastern China. Taking orders online, she sells mainly to health-conscious and well-to-do women and says she makes more than $300,000 a year.

“The Chinese have always had blind adoration for foreign things,” said Ms. Zhang, 25. “So rather than paying for expensive, made-in-China products that might lack safety, why wouldn’t they buy high-quality Australian ones at lower prices?”

Even as the world has come to rely on Chinese products, Australian goods have become hot commodities in China, and tens of thousands of young Chinese who are students at Australian universities or recent graduates have built a cottage industry to meet that demand.

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But then, through word of mouth, her business just kept growing. Between classes, she would shop for whatever was popular that week: vitamins, brand-name jewelry, a fake erectile dysfunction drug called Kangaroo Essence. And when she could not find a more lucrative job after graduation, she stayed in Melbourne and in the booming gray market for selling Australian goods to Chinese consumers.

Her business now employs two buyers, two packers and two people in customer service, with offices in Melbourne and Hangzhou, her hometown in eastern China. Taking orders online, she sells mainly to health-conscious and well-to-do women and says she makes more than $300,000 a year.

“The Chinese have always had blind adoration for foreign things,” said Ms. Zhang, 25. “So rather than paying for expensive, made-in-China products that might lack safety, why wouldn’t they buy high-quality Australian ones at lower prices?”

Even as the world has come to rely on Chinese products, Australian goods have become hot commodities in China, and tens of thousands of young Chinese who are students at Australian universities or recent graduates have built a cottage industry to meet that demand.

Read Full Article

China Craves Foreign Goods, and Students in Australia Supply Them