Global Sources Versus Alibaba for Foreign Product Sourcing/Manufacturing

China Lawyers

Clients sometimes ask me whether they should be using Global Sources or Alibaba as a first cut for finding foreign product suppliers. My response is that “I hear better things about Global Sources.” Asia Business Media just did a post, entitled, Alibaba and Global Sources: Competing less and less, explaining differences between Alibaba and Global Sources:

If we make some rough, back of the envelope calculations: Global Sources posted US$94 million in online revenues. If we estimate that the average supplier paid RMB 40,000 (US$6,000) in 2010 to post its products online. That results in approximately 15,700 paid suppliers on the Global platform. had nearly 810,000 paid suppliers in 2010 – but that figure includes suppliers on both the International and the China platform. If we just look at the International platform,, there were almost 132,000 paid suppliers.

Even if there were perfect overlap, which there is not, that would mean that just 12% of’s suppliers were also on Global Sources. reports that there were 132,000 paid suppliers on its International website which generated revenues of US$494 million. That results in an average of US$3,740 (RMB 24,500) per supplier.

So has 132,000 suppliers paying RMB 24,500. Global has 16,000 paying RMB 40,000. In all likelihood, these two companies are not going after the same suppliers.

Alibaba is trying to build an SME ecosystem through its subsidiaries,,, AliExpress and AliLoan. Global Sources is targeting larger, more established exporters who are interested in its multi-media platform (exhibitions, online, print, private buyer events).

With each passing quarter, it is clear that these two companies are not exactly knocking on the same doors across China.

What do you think?

Alibaba v. Global Sources?

Who do you use? When and why?

12 responses to “Global Sources Versus Alibaba for Foreign Product Sourcing/Manufacturing”

  1. Globalsources definitely has far less variety, though from what I have seen it’s suppliers are a little more professional and organised than most of the those on Alibaba (which ties in with what you said about Globalsources targeting larger, more established companies). It is more expensive to be on Globalsources so naturally is sets the bar higher for who will choose to be on there (far fewer small traders).
    I think they both have their place and both should be used when sourcing, though doing your due diligence remains just as important on either.

  2. The way I see it:
    Alibaba: for small & midsize importers who do not care whether they buy from a trader or a factory and who are looking for a price.
    Global Sources: for more sophisticated and larger buyers who emphasize safety over price. The suppliers who pay the most come up on top of search results, so they have most of the visibility.
    GS tries to list as many suppliers as possible for free, though, to offer more variety.

  3. Following the Alibaba scandal, we have run an interesting discussion on LinkedIn group on the subject, check them out.
    Can B2B platforms like Alibaba or Global Sources be trusted?
    Can B2B platforms like Alibaba be trusted? part 2
    The firing of Alibaba’s CEO and COO may actually be caused by another major problem within the group… the fraud was just a cover up according to some rumors. Do anybody knows anything on this?

  4. GS is owned and managed by foriegners. Alibaba is owned and managed by Chinese. Alibaba has already had a scandle with regards to misrepresentations. GS (so far) has not. I would rather pay more money for a trusted service than less money for a gong show.
    Many of the people on Alibaba are just mom and pop traders. They dont own anything. They are just trying to get between you and the actual supplier (i.e. more costs). Many of them misrepresent or out right lie about the products they offer and will send you.
    I know several people who have tried to negotiate for high dollar items (several thousand dollars) and have been outright scammed on Alibaba (send a deposit, then the supplier disappears with the deposit money (perhaps $10 or $20,000), never to be heard from again. And these were supposed “gold” Alibaba suppliers.

  5. Global Sources is more structured and searches are more selective, but it does not cover as wide a scope of products. Alibaba includes the best and the worst, in fact it is a good representation of what you would find on the supplier market in China. The search function generates lots of irrelevant results. But it also provides a lot of companies with which you can start a long process or screening and selection. But I wold never ever consider buying from one of these suppliers with no initial serious screening process. A funny and authentic story that happened to us a few years ago:

  6. Global sources I’ve dealt with for twenty years or rather Thier suppliers. Always a fair deal and they ship what’s agreed upon. The limited deals with Ali babba suppliers I’ve been ripped off every time, in one case the rep said they were a female in Shenzhen turned out it was a male in hk. The products I received were poor quality knock offs and he renegotiated the deal after I’d sent thousands of dollars. I could have used escrow. These were Ali verified suppliers that ripped me off. I found fakes frauds hustlers and crooks on Ali , definitely sticking with global sources. At least they visit supplier location to verify. Twenty years ago it was called Asian Sources Media Group.

    • Have you ever purchased only one or two items at a time from a Global Sources provider? I’m working on purchasing some camera equipment and I’m trying to research as much as possible before making the purchase. Thank you,

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