Chinese Transactional Import-Export Data Considered “Trade Secrets” by China Inc.

Deng Xioaping, the late, great leader and reformer, is credited with the catchphrase, “To get rich is glorious”, an anthem that unleashed a wave of personal entrepreneurship that continues to drive China’s economy today.

In a previous life (prior to CenTradeX), while managing a small offshore investment fund focused on the Greater China region, I got to tag along with a gaggle of prestigious fund managers from around the world as they interviewed most of the 26 listed publicly trade companies on the newly established Shenzhen and Shanghai stock exchanges.  The early 90’s were the Wild, Wild West of social capitalism in China.  At the time, already a million millionaires had emerged from within the behemoth Dragon.  Transparency and accountability were major issues then for the infant stock markets, as they are now within the foreign sourcing realm.

To Get Rich is Glorious. It's the winding road to wealth that can be tricky

Through a unique partnership with a Trade Intelligence company located in Beijing, CenTradeX was able to apprehend several years of transactional customs data translated into English.  This terabit of information detailed each and every import and export transaction by every Chinese company of every product bought or sold from 2000 through 2006.  Included in the detail were the:

  • 8 digit HS code identifier and product description.
  • Company name, address, phone, unique ID (like our EIN #), personal contact.
  • Dollar value and number of units shipped (thus deriving price per item).
  • Supply chain routing information such as port, customs district, method of transport.

Essentially, the data represented the “Holy Grail” of Trade Intelligence on perhaps the most important emerging economy on the planet.   However, as the years went on, our partner had increasing difficulty legitimately acquiring the information.  Since our commercialization of the data depended upon its guaranteed and continual flow, we refrained from distribution.  Furthermore, after hearing a few scary and very sobering stories, we decided to try direct official government channels.

Working through a well-placed government intermediary we were told that some trade data were considered “trade secrets” by China, Inc.  What in particular couldn’t be defined or foretold in advance.  Essentially it would all depend upon the perceptions of a cadre of folks which would be subject to change.  It was further advised, that unless we wanted to risk a potential raid and shutdown of our prospective business operations, we’d best refrain.

The moral of the story is that information is power.  Trade Intelligence is the power to know and make informed trade decisions.  Trade Data is the brick and mortar of trade intelligence.  Such data holds many secrets; secrets considered dangerous by some.  TI providers utilize their technological powers to mine and unlock these secrets.  Ultimately, veteran trade professionals must employ their particular alchemy of resources to make trade magic happen.

Footnote: To my knowledge, currently there are no sources where China Transactional Data is available in bulk.   Small, custom requests can be submitted to the Chinese Government. Some companies offer statistical components of the data for a particular product /industry (minus company information), for a small fee. offers historical and comprehensive trading profiles on a piecemeal basis.  Check out our downloadable charts and diagrams (located on the sidebar) for more information.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: