Comparison of freight costs is nearly impossible in China - dozens of rates and surcharges apply. The following is intended only as a guide and focuses on the route between Beijing and Shanghai.


Rail freight charges are subject to Ministry of Railways price controls. Ostensibly, the quoted rate of 1,800 yuan ($222) for a 20-foot container between Beijing and Shanghai is relatively inexpensive, but it is only the base price. Companies can pay at least as much again in handling fees, delivery costs and other surcharges.

Rail freight is extremely inflexible. Customers requiring less than one complete container receive minimal discounts. Space must be reserved several weeks - usually one month - in advance.

Since 1979, China's rail freight capacity has increased at around one-third the rate of GDP growth. Delivery time between Beijing and Shanghai is around five days.

Expected increases in rail freight charges have not materialized this year

because of the knock-on effect on China's already high inflation rate.


Air freight costs have risen rapidly in the past two years as airlines have commercialized and demand has rocketed. The Beijing-Shanghai air freight rate does not include collection and delivery costs.


The Beijing-Shanghai rate of 10,300 yuan for a 20-foot container is for a foreign-invested hauler. Chinese firms are 10 percent-30 percent cheaper. Delivery between Beijing and Shanghai takes two to three days.