The following tips for dealing with Chinese New Year come from my good friend Helmut Maertin, who is based in Shenzhen.
Like most western countries, China largely follows the Gregorian calendar that sees 1st of January to be the start of each year.
However most of the traditional Chinese holidays follow the lunar calendar so actual holiday dates oscillate over a roughly two week window.
Chinese New Year is the largest holiday event in China, and many parts of Asia, here are the dates for a few years so you can plan ahead and refer back to the site in years to come.
Year Date Symbol
2012 January 23 Dragon
2013 February 10 Snake
2014 January 31 Horse
2015 February 19 Sheep
2016 February 8 Monkey
2017 January 28 Rooster
2018 February 16 Dog
2019 February 5 Pig
Most people go “home” for CNY. Almost all factories and offices will be closed in the days leading up to “CNY” and will typically stay closed for about a week, or sometimes a month.
That has a massive impact on China and leads to the largest human migration in the world, with well over 200 million people going “somewhere”.
Effects leading up to CNY
Factories will be rushing to get orders complete before the holiday.
If you were hoping to ship something around January, you need to book it well in advance.
Typically for product to meet the start of the Northern Summer, it needs to ship prior to CNY!
Consider closer QC scrutiny during the busy time. The factory will be less inclined to store product as their warehouses will be full, so they will also be reluctant to hold product back or rework defective items.
That may mean that you need to conduct DUPRO or inline inspections to reduce the reliance on Pre Shipment Inspection and mitigate the need for rework.
Shipping companies will often charge a premium in the lead up to CNY as they will be heavily booked.
Ensure shipping bookings are made early! Nothing worse than pushing the factory to complete on time and then pay demurrage in the shippers warehouse waiting for a place on a ship.
If you are considering travelling in the week leading up to CNY take a little more care about booking and confirming bookings.
Domestic flights will be at peak pricing on many routes and many trains will literally be standing room only. Even on three day journeys!
Areas like train stations that are often busy and bustling will be packed to capacity. Many people will be sleeping at stations for a day or two before their train. Especially if the end of the dorm accommodation and the start of their train journey is out of sync, and or they have a long trip from the factory town to the train station.
Obviously petty criminals will look for opportunities in these areas, and foreigners are always seen as good targets.
So as the announcements will all say….”take care of your personal belongings”.
Finally if you are making appointments to meet factories, confirm and reconfirm, especially if you will need to travel to make the appointment.
Most factories and suppliers welcome visits throughout the year, so if you ask for a meeting many will say yes, before thinking about the dates for the holiday.
….again it is not as clear a 1st of January is for us.
Effects during CNY
Basically China will be closed for business, typically for about a week – two weeks.
Depending on the exact day that CNY falls, factories will normally close two to three days before CNY as the workers will need that long to get to their home town.
During CNY itself different areas will be a very different experience.
Many people will be in their home town, the 200 million + transient workers in China will go back to their rural and regional towns.
Sometimes whole families will travel to a holiday area such as Hainan in the south, but typically people stay home, and do the rounds of friends and in-laws.
The factory towns often become veritable ghost towns, with much less traffic on the streets and many hotels and restaurants scaled back to skeleton staff.
If you are staying in bigger city like Beijing or Shanghai that has a solid local population base you will get a great experience. All the local park areas will be full of people letting off fireworks, and if you are light sleeper do not expect a peaceful night for about three nights around CNY.
Effects after CNY
The travel impact after CNY is a little less intense as the end of the holiday is a little less definitive.
Many people will feel comfortable at home and stay a little longer.
Many people will take the New Year as an opportunity for a job or career change.
This is will reflect heavily on factories who typically scramble for workers after CNY.
Often factories that would normally send cars to collect you for a visit will either tell you not to bother coming, or suggest you take a taxi. The drivers and managers will be at local bus and train stations trying to recruit workers as they arrive.
Especially in medium to large factories 800 workers and up, much of the workforce from factory floor to middle management will be new!
Many of the people that last year, got your dress shirt order right three shipments in a row are now making hand bags, and of course the people making your mobile phones after the new year may have been making had bags last year, and so the story goes.
Again, over 200 million of Chinas work force is transient.
This means both that you need to be alert for QC issues in the months after CNY, and you should not expect that simply because the holiday is past, that shipments will start to flow immediately.
About the guest blogger/author: Helmut Maertin
Managing Director – Quality Products International Limited
Helmut, grew up in a production environment of his father’s successful printing and manufacturing business.
The invention of Floaties Learn to Swim products by Helmut’s father brought the family business to the orient in the 1960’s. In those days China was still closed and Taiwan’s fledgling manufacturing industry was developing capabilities such as inflatable’s.
QPI Ltd was later established to offer OEM product to 3rd party clients, that expanded to product development and quality control services.
Though originally from Sydney, Australia, Helmut has been living in the Shenzhen area since about 2003.
Helmut Maertin can best be contacted via Linked In where he is happy to welcome new connections.