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My YubiKey purchase experience in China

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Yubico is famous for its excellent hardware keys, and somehow they have become the industry standard. But unfortunately, for unknown reasons*, they don’t offer services to China (mainland), not even sell to China. That sucks since I live in China. (oof, don’t worry, but that’s how the story starts)

How did I make up my mind to buy a YubiKey?

It’s a long story, but long story short. I have been interested in cryptography for a few months, especially when it comes to things like OpenPGP, and I got to know a thing called Smart Card, which is a card that stores your private key.

Of course, the first thing I have come up with is the Yubikey, but the $45 for a 5 NFC and $55 for a 5C NFC are just too expensive for students like me.

Fortunately, at the end of September this year (2022), Cloudflare announced a promotion that provides users with a coupon code. The users can buy a YubiKey 5 NFC for $10 and a YubiKey 5C NFC for just $12.22 (before tax).

That makes me wonder 🤔: hey since this is a great chance, how about buying one of those? And there you have it.

But I didn’t buy just one or two, I bought more than sixty of them, more on that later.

How did you get it in China?

Good question, and that’s the main problem that I thought about it for like half a month.

There’s a saying that goes “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” And fortunately, I have a friend who lives in the US! Massive thanks!

My friend lives in Anaheim, California with the postal code 92802. So there’s an 8% tax.

One purchase example. Credit: my friend

Logistics

The logistic problem was really hard to solve. But we ended up using USPS Priority Mail. Here’s the simplified logistics info.”

  • Oct.28, 4:46 p.m. PDT (Anaheim, CA 92812): USPS in possession of item (accepted) (Source: USPS)
  • Oct.30, 1:00 a.m. PDT (Carson, CA 90747): Arrived at USPS Facility (arrived) (Source: USPS)
  • Oct.30, 1:04 a.m. PDT (Carson, CA 90747): Departed USPS Facility (departed) (Source: USPS)
  • Oct.30, 1:17 a.m. PDT (LOS ANGELES CA INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER): Arrived at Regional Facility (arrived) (Source: USPS)
  • Oct.30, 12:50 p.m. PDT (LOS ANGELES CA INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER): Processed Through Regional Facility (processed) (Source: USPS)
  • Oct.31, 10:19 a.m. PDT (Los Angeles Int’l Airport, LAX): Arrived (arrived) (Source: USPS)
  • Oct.31, 1:32 p.m. PDT/11:38 a.m. PDT (Los Angeles Int’l Airport, LAX): Departed. Taking NH125* to Tokyo (departed) (Source: USPS, Flightradar24)
  • Nov.1, 8:53 p.m. JST (Tokyo Haneda Int’l Airport, HND): Arrived (arrived) (Source: Flightradar24)
  • Nov.4, 8:13 a.m. JST (Tokyo Haneda Int’l Airport, HND): Departed. Taking unknown flight* to Beijing (departed) (Source: USPS, Flightradar24)
  • Nov.4, 11:05 a.m. CST (Beijing Capital Int’l Airport, PEK): Departed (departed) (Source: USPS)
  • Nov.5, 8:03 a.m. CST (Shanghai): Delivered to Customs (arrived) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.6, 5:27 p.m. CST (Shanghai): Customs Clearance processing (processing) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.8, 10:29 a.m. CST (Shanghai): Tax bill issued (processing) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.8, 10:30 a.m. CST (Shanghai): Waiting for tax payment (processing) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.12, 1:23 a.m. CST (*): Tax PAID (processed) (Source: Myself)
  • Nov.12, 1:29 a.m. CST (Shanghai): Item Released (processing) (Source: EMS, China Online Customs)
  • Nov.13, 5:49 p.m. CST (Shanghai): Customs Clearance Completed (processed) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.13, 6:19 p.m. CST (Shanghai): Arrive at [Shanghai International Mail Processing Center] (transfer) (arrived) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.14, 0:27 a.m. CST (Shanghai): Departed from [Shanghai Wanggang Mail Processing Center] (transfer) (departed) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.14, 1:12 a.m. CST (Shanghai): Arrived at [Shanghai Pudong New Area Jiang Town Delivery Department] (arrived) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.14, 6:55 a.m. CST (Shanghai): Arrived at [Shanghai Pudong New Area Jiang Town Delivery Department] (arrived) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.14, 7:52 a.m. CST (Shanghai): Arrange Delivery (delivering) (Source: EMS)
  • Nov.14, 12:18 p.m. CST (Shanghai): Delivered! (delivered) (Source: EMS)

That’s all for international shipping. You may notice that my friend send the package to Shanghai, which is the home of one of my other friends. That’s because we want to avoid tax payments if we use a residential address. The result is… Not great. We paid 20% tax eventually.

From that time, we have 2 destinations: One is to my friend’s warehouse in Minhang District, Shanghai; and the other is to me. So we did it.

The warehouse part is not shown here, because of privacy concerns. I will put mine here. I asked my friend to buy a 1000 CNY worth of insurance for 0.75 CNY, which is good. And I also asked him to send it at the fastest speed. The whole process took less than 24 hours. Huge credit to Chinese Logistics Companies, especially S.F. You guys are great.

  • Nov.19, 1:59 p.m. (Shanghai): S.F. Express has picked up the shipment (accepted) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.19, 8:30 p.m. (Shanghai): Shipment loaded at [Shanghai Pudong Town South Business Department] (ready for departure) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.19, 8:32 p.m. (Shanghai): Departed (Source: SF)
  • Nov.19, 9:14 p.m. (Shanghai): Shipment arrived at [Shanghai Pujiang Processing Center] (arrived) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.19, 11:11 p.m. (Shanghai): Shipment loaded at [Shanghai Pujiang Processing Center] (ready for departure) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.20, 0:32 a.m. (Shanghai): Departed (Source: SF)
  • Nov.20, 3:35 a.m. (Changzhou): Shipment arrived at [Changzhou Hengshanqiao Processing Center) (arrived) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.20, 6:00 a.m. (Changzhou): Shipment loaded at [Changzhou Hengshanqiao Processing Center) (ready for departure) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.20, 6:00 a.m. (Changzhou): Departed (Source: SF)
  • Nov.20, 7:49 a.m. (Liyang): Shipment arrived at [Liyang Yongping Parcel Station) (arrived) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.20, 8:35 a.m. (Liyang): Arranged Delivery (delivering) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.20, 12:18 a.m. (Liyang): Delivered to parcel cabinet, third-party signed off (delivered) (Source: SF)
  • Nov.20, 1:32 p.m. (Liyang): Picked up

The full process took about 20 days and I will call this good enough. I paid 40.85$ to USPS (will go dutch with all of our friends) and 12.75 CNY to SF Express.

Ending

This process was painful but I actually learned something about international shipping and how Customs work. So it wasn’t too bad.

Basic usage and more information will be posted later. And I’ll say, I love all of my friends who have helped me, and massive thanks to the logistics company, and as well as the Customs (they seem to prioritize my parcel).

Asterisks

unknown reasons: for national security, I guess.

NH125: this was just my guessing, I tried to search for the corresponding flight, but I didn’t find one that matched the logistics info well. But this is the closest one.

unknown flight: according to Flightradar24, there IS NO DIRECT FLIGHT from HDA to PEK. I guess it was transferred to Narita (NRT) then fly to Beijing.

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