Reuters takes an inside look at iPad smuggling in China

After nearly five months of cutting through red tap, Apple finally launched its third-generation iPad in mainland China today. To much surprise, the tablet made a quiet landing, with only a handful of shoppers in lines spotted around the country’s signature Apple Stores.

The lack of noise can probably be attributed to Apple’s pre-registration system. In an effort to avoid the chaotic scenes of previous product launches, the company restricted new iPad purchases to pre-order only. But it could also be because many fans already have the tablet…

Reuters takes an interesting look inside the increasingly-popular trade of smuggling Apple products into China. Due to earlier availability, and cheaper prices, folks will purchase iPads in Hong Kong, and then smuggle them into mainland China across the Shenzhen border.

The smugglers take a subway between the cities, and only have to worry about one thing: Customs. Import taxes on each iPad would erase any profits they would see in a grey market resale, so to avoid the duties, they hide the tablets in boxes, luggage, and other belongings.

Reuters says media estimates suggest that more than 200,000 new iPads have made this journey in the past 4 months. Which comes out to more than 1,500 iPads per day. And that’s just Apple’s tablets. Imagine how many iPhones and other gadgets make the trip.

It’s really kind of ironic when you think about it. Many of Apple’s most popular products are manufactured right there in Shenzhen, in Foxconn’s factories. Then they’re shipped out to other countries, which isn’t free, mind you, only to find their way back to where they started.