I recently had the choice of buying from Chinese suppliers when shopping around for a new Rigol oscilloscope but must admit that I whimped-out when it came time to buy and chose to buy from a U.S. dealer who would also honour the warranty. I did end up paying slightly more, considering shipping and exchange rates but I do not regret my choice.
I have however made some smaller purchases from China, in an attempt to 'test the water'. I have seen some very attractive pricing on many homebrew-related goodies that would cost much more if purchased in North America and I reasoned that buying a few lower priced items would be a good way to test the quality. Politics aside and with a tiny bit of guilt, over the past few months I have purchased:
2 packages of HSS 1mm drill bits for PC work @ 25 cents each from
3 solderless breadboard jumper-wire kits @ $5.50 each from
10 small HC49 28MHz crystals @ 18 cents each from
50 sheets of PCB thermal transfer paper @ 20 cents each from
5m of RG174 coax @ 30 cents / ft. from
I happily admit that in all cases, I have been very pleased with not only the quality of the items received but also in the service. With the high cost of shipping anything to Canada, I find the 'free shipping' for all of these items to be particularly attractive.
Although all of these items are available from many e-Bay sellers in China, I think it pays to carefully search feedback records before purchasing. In many cases, a high rating does not always tell the story. I look for high volume dealers that have very few complaints within the past year. Check what complaints are being made...if it is the quality of what is being sold, then go elsewhere, as some dealers do a high volume of selling junk while others have only single-digit or even zero negative feedback.
It will still be some time, if ever, before I feel comfortable buying any high priced items from China but if you were brought up in the 50's, you will probably recall when buying from Japan was an invitation for disaster and look how that turned out!