How to Avoid Buying from China on Amazon

How to Avoid Buying from China on Amazon

Updated 11/4/22

Amazon doesn’t make it easy

Since the United States Tariff Act of 1930, the Country of Origin of every product needs to be marked clearly on the packaging of every product that is imported into the United States. Look at the label or the packing box of any product you’ve purchased lately, and you’ll see where that product came from.

Unfortunately, there aren’t currently similar laws that make listing the Country of Origin mandatory for online listings, which is why it seems almost impossible when you’re browsing a product listing on Amazon, Walmart, or Target to figure out where a product was made (hint: if it says “Imported” anywhere in the listing, it most likely came from China).

The reasons are simple. Retailers know that obfuscating this information is better for business. And so those of us who want to be more informed consumers have almost no way of making informed decisions.

Making matters worse, Amazon doesn’t even look like it’s trying. If you search for the phrase “not made in China” in their search bar, their search algorithm isn’t intelligent at all.

On the screenshot below, I searched for “toys not made in China”. 7 of the top 10 results were made in China (And one result isn’t even a toy–it’s a bag of dog treats!)



I found an even more nefarious example when I was researching face masks not made in China, 12 out of the first 12 results for “face masks made in the USA” were, you guessed it, made in China.

Honestly, I think Hanlon’s Razor applies here (never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity). That said, even though “not made in China” and “made in USA” are almost certainly two of their top search phrases, they don’t seem in a rush to want to fix it. That’s because most customers are just taking their search results at their word and assuming none of these products are made in China.

India leads in mandating Country of Origin Labeling Online

The country of India took a bold move in 2020; starting on July 21, 2020 they mandated that Amazon India add “country of origin” to their product listings. And sure enough, if you go to amazon.in and search for any product, you’ll see a beautiful “Country of Origin”

Country of Origin is listed on Amazon India

The government of India, perhaps being right on the border with communist China, realized the existential threat to their national security by letting cheap imports from China flood in and subsume their economic infrastructure.

Country of Original Labeling in the United States

Can we hope for something similar in the United States or Europe? Sadly, no, at least not for a while.

Back in May 2020, legislation was introduced that mandated disclosure of country of origin be put on online product listings, just as it is already mandated to be printed on boxes and products (as it has been since 1931). It finally passed the Senate in June 2021, and was clear and concise in its mandate.

The bill went to the House in January 2022. Instead of adopting the bill, the House decided to write an entirely different, monstrous 2912 page bill that omitted any reference to country of origin labeling. This was thanks to Amazon and other retailers who spend untold money to lobby against it, and of course there are politicians on both sides of the political aisle that are heavily funded by those who support (and are even funded by) the CCP.

I wrote a long Reddit thread trying to educate people about what has happening. There was a shred of hope that the House would adopt the Senate’s language, but after coming out of conference committee, the House and the Senate ended up coming up with the CHIPs act which contained a lot of spending of our tax dollars to reward big corporations and special interest–but no mention at all of mandating country of origin online, which would have cost the taxpayer NOTHING and would have allowed we, the consumers, to make informed choices.

Some Hope with Amazon

In 2021, Amazon already mandated that sellers provide country of origin when they submit product information. I have noticed throughout 2022 that Country of Origin is in more and more of their product listings, which is a good sign. But since it’s voluntary, there are no repercussions if Amazon, its suppliers, or its sellers decide to omit country of origin information, or even to lie about it.

And so, it’s up to us, the consumer to educate ourselves and to do what we can to provide each other the knowledge and transparency that retailers refuse to provide. Here are my “tips” for always making sure you buy a product that’s not made in China on Amazon:

How to tell if a product is made in China

Until a law passes that mandates accurate country-of-origin information online, for people like you or me who want to do our research to avoid products made in China, what can we do?

  1. Visit a brick-and-mortar store and look at the product and the box for yourself.

    Yeah, I know. We’ve gotten used to shopping online to the point where making the schlep to a retail store seems antediluvian. But visiting a physical store is the only way to make sure you know the product you’re interested in came from a country other than China. Since the Tariff Act of 1930, it’s been mandatory for anyone shipping a product from overseas to the United States to clearly mark their products or their packaging to say where the product was made. Specifically, if you see a label that says “Made in” a certain country, it means that it’s that country where the most “substantial transformation” of the product took place, generally meaning it’s where the product was assembled and finished before packaging.

    Truth is, you can’t always trust Country of Origin information even on a box or label; in some cases China manufactures most of the raw ingredients or parts, but because the product is assembled in another country, it’s that country which gets the “credit” on the label. Still, one thing you can be sure of is that if it says “Made in China”, that no other country or country’s government benefitted from making that product.
  2. Search the customer questions & answers section and the reviews section on the Amazon Product Page.

    On the Amazon Product Page, scroll down to the section that says “Have a question?” or “Customer questions & answers”. Type in phrases like “made in”, “made”, “origin”, “USA”, and “China”. Chances are, especially with a more popular product listing, that someone has already asked the question and that someone who owns the product (and therefore has access to the product label or the outer packing box) has answered it, either in the Q&A section or as part of a Customer Review.

    made in china in amazon product listings
    This method isn’t foolproof–in some cases a product that used to be made in another country years ago eventually switched to China. In other cases, manufacturers maintain multiple factories in different countries, so there’ll be no way of knowing where the product you’re buying really came from. But again, the Question and Answer section is the only place on Amazon where you’ll be able to get remotely accurate information.

    The more popular the product, the better chances you’ll have customer reviews that contain the country of origin. In fact, In cases where the manufacturing was changed from one country to another, sometimes you can infer through the timestamp of the review exactly when a product changed from one country to another.

    If this information doesn’t exist, help out the community by asking the question clearly: “Where was this product manufactured?” or “In what country was this product made?” In most cases, the seller or someone who purchased the product and can read the physical label will chime in with the correct answer.

  3. Find another retailer that discloses this information and reward them by buying from them

    Here’s a screenshot from Williams-Sonoma. Yes, they may be a bit pricier, but they clearly respect their customers to the point where they fully disclose the country of manufacture of all products listed on their site. It’s this kind of respect for you, the consumer, that needs to be rewarded.

    Click through this link to see the research I did on e-commerce Web sites that divulge country of origin. There aren’t a whole lot of them, so make sure to reward the ones that do respect you enough to be transparent with this information by giving them your business.

    williams sonoma discloses country of origin
  4. Avoid the “fake brands”.

    If there’s a brand you never heard of, it’s almost probably a “fake brand” from a China company. Granted, buying from a brand you heard of may support China in some way, but buying from one of these “fake” companies definitely well. And yes, I count Amazon Basics as one of those “fake brands”.

    Trust me, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. At least with recognizable brands that have been built over many years there is some incentive for them to maintain a certain level of quality control. With fly-by-night fake brands, as soon as a few negative reviews come in, all they need to do is take down their page, change their brand, change their labels, and put up a new page. How many can you spot in this list of coffee maker brands? If you guessed brands like SHARDOR, CHULUX, OUTON, and SUNVINI OUTDOOR, you’re on the right track.

    fake brands on amazon
  5. Learn how to spot “fake reviews”

    There are services like FakeSpot that attempt to automate the detection of fake reviews, but the fakers are getting more and more sophisticated at avoiding the kinds of patterns that these sites (and Amazon themselves) use. All said, the best kind of test is the “sniff test”.

    fake reviews on amazon
    Here’s an example I randomly pulled from a toy listing. First off, notice how there’s a steady stream of 5-star reviews immediately after a new product launches. That doesn’t happen organically.

    Then, read each review out loud and ask yourself if it sounds like something you or one of your friends would say in a conversation.

    “Hey Bob, how did you like the new toy you got for BIlly?”
    “It is a great STEM toy for kids to enhance their creativity skills. The quality of the pieces and the tools is great”
  6. Educate others

    Share this page with your friends to let them know how to look for China-made sources. If you have definitive information about Country of Origin for any given product, leave Amazon reviews and answers that help others steer clear of China. Share your own experiences on this site and others where users trade information.
  7. Write your elected representatives and ask them to require online companies to put Country of Origin on their online listings.

    Funny thing is, I tend to think of myself as somewhat libertarian politically, so I generally don’t tell people to “wire Congress”. But this is an example where it’s literally their job to protect our country and our local economies from those enemies foreign and domestic who would not hesitate to destroy both, whether out of malice or out of sheer ignorance. Even though the law to mandate country of origin failed to pass, keep writing your Senator or Congressman to insist that this law be passed. Or vote them out and vote in someone who will represent you.

And of course, you can just ask. Write a question on the Amazon product page. Or, check one of these sites that I’ve personally found useful.

China Never: Products Not Made In China – Probably the most popular site that researches brands that proactively (and proudly) state that they have kept manufacturing to the US, Canada, or the EU. The site is slightly out of date, so read the comments to make sure that all the brands are still adhering to their commitments.

Alliance for American Manufacturing – Non-profit and non-partisan partnership that identifies companies that still manufacture in the USA.

Not Made in China Directory – A database that lets you search for brands and products and clearly discloses the Country of Origin

r/avoidchineseproducts on Reddit – An active subreddit where you can post a question (or provide an answer) if you’re curious about a specific product, product category, or brand.

Not China Made on Facebook – A Facebook page with recent news and finds

Save. Spend. Splurge – A blog that gives good advice and keeps a relatively up-to-date list across multiple categories.

And of course, there’s the new forum on this site where I will commit to checking and using whatever search skills I have to find an answer for you.

Hopefully these “tips” will help you be able to better recognize China brands so that you can avoid them and warn others to as well.

What percentage of Amazon sellers are based in China?

In total, Marketplace Pulse reports that as of 2021 46% of all sellers are based in China.

And that number is growing rapidly. According to Marketplace Pulse, in 2021 75% of new sellers in Amazon’s top markets are from China (this is up from 47% in 2020 and 41% in 2019).

What percentage of Amazon products are made in China?

This number is hard to tell because Amazon does not reveal country of origin information. But when you calculate the product sold by third party sellers plus the percentage of consumer products from first party sellers that are made in China, the number is staggering. Some estimate it at up to 90% or more.

How can I tell if an Amazon seller is from China?

The easiest and quickest way to tell is to look at the Seller (look for “Ships from” and “Sold by” under the Add to Cart button on any product page. If it’s shipped from and sold by Amazon.com, chances are the supplier has been vetted by Amazon. That’s not to say they’re not from China, but you’re protected to a certain degree because the seller is going through Amazon.

If you see another name under “Sold by”, click on it. Amazon’s rules state that all sellers must provide accurate contact information. If you see something like this…

Business Name:shan tou shi bei bei jia mao yi you xian gong si
Business Address:cheng hai qu cheng hua jie dao
xi men zhong tai san lu nan 3 hao di wu ceng
Shantou
Guangdong
515800
CN

…then run away. It doesn’t matter how cheap their product is or how good their reviews are. Just run. Because the reviews are probably fake and the product is probably garbage. And good luck getting “customer service” from a company like this. In most cases, companies like this will sell a ton of product and then close up shop and open up under a different name.

China companies are getting smarter. You may see American-sounding names. You might see addresses of LLCs that were established in the US. So your best bet is to avoid third party sellers altogether.

How does Amazon help China?

With traditional retail, there are lots of layers to navigate to sell a single product. You need brands, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, marketers, sales, and many more disciplines working together to get a product to market.

Amazon revolutionized retail by allowing brands and manufacturers to cut out the middlemen and go straight to the consumer. That’s an amazing thing. But it only works when all of the companies involved play by the rules.

In China’s totalitarian state, “playing by the rules” means something different than in the West. In the West, there’s a natural aversion to cheating and subverting rules. Not to say that it doesn’t happen (it does all the time), but the Western culture is such that when someone is found cheating, it’s not a good look.

In the People’s Republic of China, cheating is not only condoned, it is encouraged. Because the most important value in China has nothing to do with personal integrity or honor. It has everything to do with what advances the Chinese Communist Party’s power. And so if a company cheats to get ahead–especially at the expense of Western companies–

Bottom line, Chinese companies–egged on by their government–have made an art of exploiting the free and open nature of the West to dominate. Consumers are clueless, because they assume that Amazon is policing their systems to punish abuse. Amazon is helpless, because their platform was built on the assumption that all of its users would be governed by Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”, and not the “Invisible Hand” of the CCP.

How can I learn more about how China is manipulating Amazon results

There’s an excellent analysis by EComCrew here. My analysis above is largely from my own experience as a consumer, an SEO expert, and a sporadic seller, but their analysis dives deeply into what it looks like from a merchant perspective. It’s not pretty, and it’s not getting any better.

23 Comments

  1. Very good write-up!
    The searching on Amazon India is a good tip. This may help to identify the country of origin. Still you need to watch out as the country of origin may be different in your country. The exact same product with the same part number can sometimes be from a different origin when bought in a different country.

    Another great website for finding the country of origin is productfrom.com

  2. Good write-up. However, we can be smarter about boycotting China so as to not shoot ourselves too much in the foot.

    It’s useful to divide made-in-China sellers on Amazon into two groups:
    1. Chinese sellers based in China
    2. US corporations that happen to manufacture in China

    Money going to the first group benefits China so, so much more than the second. In the first, your money goes to a Chinese corporation, staffed by Chinese nationals physically in China, and which pays income taxes to the CCP (and nothing back to the US). They also don’t have to obey US laws so they legally can get away with shoddy products that pose health/safety risks.

    I’m all for boycotting this group.

    The second group’s case is much more nuanced. For the majority of these American companies only a small portion of the total order value goes back to a Chinese beneficiary. A $100 pair of Crocs will have only cost $5-8 to make in a Chinese factory, with all the profit going to an American firm which creates and supports American jobs, pays income tax to the US (collected by the IRS), and in many instances gives back through philanthropy. These brands will even turn around and sell back their products to consumers in China for another $20 markup.

    The benefits extend to American workers too. We in the US get to spend our time and talents on producing higher value-add products/services, which we charge premiums for, rather than sitting in sweatshops sewing up shoes and socks like the Chinese do for $2 an hour. We also keep our environment clean while the Chinese factory is polluting theirs with chemical waste (still a bad thing for planet Earth, I know, but relatively speaking).

    So overall I say we even come out ahead in most of the trade between US corporation and China.

    Eager to hear yours and other people’s opinions on this.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Kent! It’s nice to be able to have a conversation that’s not limited to name-calling in 280 character chunks.

      In general, I completely agree with you. It’s much, much preferable to support an American, European, or Japanese brand that outsources to China manufacturers rather than a 100% China-owned company. After all, it “worked” in the 1970s and 1980s. The USA outsourced to countries like Japan and Taiwan. US companies profited handsomely, and the economies of Japan and Taiwan grew and themselves became innovators and leaders in industries like automotive, consumer electronics, and semiconductors. That’s exactly how Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is supposed to work.

      The difference with China–which everyone who lobbied to give MFN status to China missed–is that they’re governed by free market principles outwardly, but every iota has always been controlled by their central government. From the beginning the CCP mandated that every foreign company doing business in China had to set up a “joint venture” which was just a thinly veiled scheme to steal intellectual property.

      We all need to take a step back and ask…why is it nearly impossible to find a clock radio or a toaster oven that’s not made in China? It’s because 20 years ago American companies like GE and Emerson threw their manufacturing to China. Their executives got bonuses for a few years, until one year they realized that the markets they started were flooded with cheaper products from China brands that looked and worked exactly like theirs. Soon these companies left the market.

      It doesn’t sound like a big deal when it comes to things like clock radios and toasters. But China is using the same model to take over every other industry. Another question we should ask: how did China become a global leader in telecommunications in 10 years, when it took countries like France and the USA 100 year to build the industry? And look at every other industry that starts out with the USA outsourcing manufacturing to China–pharmaceuticals, food supplements, solar panels, electric cars.

      Honestly, I don’t blame the CCP. They are just entering a door which greedy and short-sighted US politicians and corporate executives are leaving wide open. But as voters and shareholders, the buck stops with us ultimately to prevent China from taking over every industry.

      Again, thanks for your comments! They certainly gave me new perspective, as I hope mine did. Bottom line, any step we take, big or small, is not a bad one.

      1. Very good insights into the great threat we are now facing due to a combination of the actions of greedy large US corporations and a greedy totalitarian government that wants to dominate the world’s economy. These are dangerous times we live in.

    2. Why would I want to support American companies that support China? I would rather reward companies with enough integrity not to support the CCP.

  3. My wife had a great idea. Already products made in China or anywhere, must have a label that says where the product was made. Require Amazon to post a picture of this label along with the product for sale on its website.

    1. I wish your wife were running Amazon, Christian 🙂 Perhaps the most aggravating thing about Amazon is that they HAVE country of origin information available–as you say it’s on every box and you can bet they have that information in a database somewhere. But they simply choose to hide the ball because they believe it will hurt their profits.

      That’s why we need USICA–and why Amazon and other retailers are lobbying Congress HARD to stop it.

      Until USICA passes, I love your idea, but we can’t count on Amazon to do it. But since Amazon does allow consumers to upload photos, maybe this is a grassroots things that consumers can start doing on our own. In any case, thanks to you and your wife for a great idea. It’s something that is completely doable.

    1. I use Amazon and am fooled daily. I sent back any items that I get from China. Mostly because they are not as described. Just junk! I would think that Amazon would see this,they have to be loosing money with items being constantly returned? I’ve called Amazon about this but have gotten no where.

  4. This page was so awesome!! Extremely informative and very helpful! I added it to my home screen so I can access and share it easily with others! It is so important to put America first and stop the CCP from owning us! I’m praying every day that it’s not too late and sites like this give us direction and hope!! I Love this forum and all the posts! Thank you so so much! Let’s save America!! ❤️🙏🇺🇲

  5. I am based in the UK and have just written to my Member of Parliament and asked why the UK is not moving in this direction.
    Incidentally I just bought a music stand which I am returning to Amazon due to its Country of Origin which was clearly stated on the box but not on amazon.co.uk or on the manufacturer’s website. When I checked amazon.in for the same product they had it listed without Country of Origin so they are not perfect I am afraid.

  6. Thank you! One thing I do that has been helpful (sometimes, not always) is to Google the name of the company and search for where it is located, or the name of a product and where it is manufactured.

  7. This is a topic that makes me very angry and I am not alone. I have tried to get amazon to stop protecting china. If you search for American made, u get many bs companies pop up that are NOT American. So much BS!!! They put American or US somewhere so the product from China appears to be from the US How can we stop this???? Stop buying amazon!!!

  8. This is worse than I ever thought was possible!

    I also struggle trying to order products not made in China. Fulfilled by Amazon is all they say next to the company. Even if you click on the company, and most will have a Chinese address, some are US companies. So I recently ordered from a Florida based company and the product received had a made in China label!

    I’m now sending questions to US companies asking specifically if their product is made in China.

    I’m really unhappy with Amazon to the point that I totally liquidated my Amazon stock and will not buy back in unless I see them support USA manufacturers.

    1. If Amazon doesn’t want to give us this piece of information, one way to respond is to keep sending back products that are made in China.

      Shipping AND returns are free.

      I did this already for a couple of smart home sensors (I bought them from Samsung and Aeotec knowing they assemble these in Indonesia, but those few I received that were made in China were sent back to Amazon).

      Also… I try to zoom on the package to try and read where the product is made. Not always possible and not always accurate… but it’s a possibility.

  9. It’s nice to see Amazon listing the “country” of origin of products as “Taiwan” 🙂

    Thank you for pointing me to that useful resource, even though I’m sure some identical products may have another country of origin on another amazon website (e.g. some locally made products, in India, may instead be sourced from China when sold on other markets).

    I wonder if it is reliable though: some Gigabyte products were listed as made in China… Has Gigabyte crossed the strait and started assembling its products abroad (i.e. in China)?

  10. Thank you! Not being very politically minded, nor “edumacated” in the world of commerce…..I order quite often from Amazon in hopes of receiving decent products. Well, imagine my surprise when I looked on my porch and saw a BOX (18″ X 24″) containing an order I was waiting for and really excited about
    (a 4 X 6 FOOT) AREA RUG!!!!!!!!!!!!)!!!!!!!!!! This AREA RUG was FOLDED to a size of approximately 12 x 16 INCHES, wrapped in cellophane and plastic……IN THIS BOX! I didn’t UNFOLD the rug as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fold (Captain Obvi) it back to FIT in this box!!!!!!!!!!!! I browsed for hours looking for the perfect rug for my living area. Talk about “AN INACCURATE WEBSITE DESCRIPTION” reason for return and when completing my return, I noticed the seller name was something like “XiamonfjeabnXjrTsmdmflosErxtyuQvqptarkksulmao”………..need I say more? I did a dive into (“how can I avoid buying S*** and M******F****** C***” on Amazon). I landed here, so, I appreciate the insight and “edumacating” me in your article!

    P.S. Marked in BOLD print on the box…”Box doubles as last-minute diorama”….
    maybe I can use the rug in a diorama……………………..”just say no….to China” =)

    1. Correction:

      Oops….the box containing the AREA RUG is 13 X 18 INCHES and the rug
      (supposedly 4 X 6 FOOT) is cellophane wrapped to an incredible
      10 X 12 INCHES ……FOLDED!!!!!!!

  11. yes, on internet-shopping, it is difficult to know, what is “made in china” or not.
    for electronic, i recommend to choose brands from Taiwan or Korea:
    Generally they are not selling stuff “made in china”.
    Asus, HTC, Samsung…
    Generally Brands from America or Japan are selling a lot of electronics with their names but the devices are “made in China”…

  12. AH! Thank you for all the tips and help. I did check out amazon.in and do some more research for some of the ‘country of orgin’ products. Unfortunately, I found a handful mislabeled as ‘made in USA’. For example, this one: https://www.amazon.in/Mueller-Electric-Gooseneck-Variable-Temperature/dp/B08BDZPWMF/ref=sr_1_6?crid=M60TP1VUOPNA&keywords=electric+gooseneck+tea+kettle&qid=1674188269&sprefix=electric+gooseneck+tea+kettle%2Caps%2C210&sr=8-6

    I then checked the Mueller website; you can’t even buy this from the manufacturer and then looking deeper, found ‘made in china’ from a customer review. Ugh. So so hard to figure this out! 🙁

  13. I am in the UK. Amazon told me they ‘couldn’t’ tell if a vacuum cleaner was made in China. They didn’t know…! So I ordered the item, saw Made in China on the box, and sent it back for a full refund which I received.
    Hopefully if enough people do this Amazon might realise it would make sense to confirm the country of origin in the first place.

  14. You can find the country of origin from a seller somewhere in their store in Amazon. Some listings show it , others don’t. Don’t ask me why . If you go to “sold by” directly under the buy box to the right of the listing, under “add to cart” and “buy now”, you will get to it.
    For Example:
    Add to Cart
    Buy Now
    Secure transaction
    Ships from
    Amazon
    Sold by
    LOGENE

    If you click on LOGENE and scroll down, to the left you will see:
    Business Name: Yiwu Maohao E-commerce Firm
    Business Address:
    Room 202, Unit 3, Building 47, Qingyanliu A District
    Jiangdong Street, Yiwu City
    Jinhua City
    Zhejiang Province
    322000
    CN

    Amazon adds this. It is not left to the seller. You will find it in most listings. What I do, if it isn’t in one,
    it will be in another. So I click on items in the store until one pops up that gives that information. You will not be surprised to find that the overwhelming majority are from china. I want to at least buy from a US seller who pays taxes here, provides jobs here, and pays customs here, while these other direct from china stores only enrich china, take business away from us (sometimes stealing businesses from US sellers), then threaten us. More should be done to bring awareness of the extent of this problem to inform US citizens, not only as consumers but as to what this is doing to transfer wealth from the US to china.

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