There are a few simple things you need to do when importing from China that will keep you safe,
I've even had a 17 year-old successfully import from China with these rules:
1. Don't rush
This is the big killer, if you get nervous or tired of working at it and just jump in, your setting yourself up to get hurt.
Take your time, find out all the details, chat to the Chinese representatives as much as you need, take the time to ask them every question you have, and don't go ahead until you are sure of everything from buying it to having it arrive at your door.
2. Get the Manufacturer's details
If you are buying from China you should only be talking to manufacturers, no middle men. If your using Alibaba or a similar site every company has details, address, zip code, phone number etc.
If your not using Alibaba make sure you have these details, as you need to know they actually exist and are a real company.
Google "verify Chinese phone numbers" & "Verify Chinese zip codes" to find great tools to check these out.
and ensure all of their details match up. Pictures of their office (with the company name) are also good.
It is also recommended to ring the phone number to verify, its very likely they will have someone in the office who speaks English.
If you happen to get a Chinese-speaker answer just say this phrase:
Ni hao, Ni hui sho yin yu ma? (knee ha-ow, knee h-way shore yin you ma?) and you will be transferred to an English-speaker.
3. Get a Sample Order
No matter how much you verify their existence, you still want to know they will get the goods to you, on time, in good order, and that they are the quality you want.
Most Chinese manufacturers are used to dealing in orders of several thousand, so sample orders for them are as many as 50-500, but don't let them talk you into this. For eBay purposes sample orders are 2-5, and you shouldn't be spending more than $100 on these including shipping. Some manufacturers won't do this small a quantity, which is fine, so just ask, you'll find that most will be willing to.
It is unlikely you will make any money on these sample orders as the shipping price per item will be large, but it will let you know everything you need to about the product and how well it sells.
4. Be careful of Shipping
Don't buy anything until you work out the final price including shipping, as this will often cost as much or more than the goods themselves.
For lots of less than $1000 value, including shipping, you don;t have to worry about GST or Duty which is great.
For small lots less than half a cubic meter, air freight is often best (DHL, Toll, etc.) however above these volumes sea shipment might be better.
Chinese Manufacturers can be trusted to organise and send off air fright generally, however I suggest you always organise sea freight yourself.
Sea freight is quite complicated, the best way is to contact as many Freight Forwarders as you can find, and ask them all to give you a price quote on your shipment and find the cheapest one.
5. Take Measured Risks and Stay Calm
There are always risks, especially organising things halfway across the world, but you can do a lot of things to minimize these, and accept that. No need to stress out when it doesn't help. The best strategy is to only invest what you are comfortable risking, do all your research and then go out and enjoy yourself in the sun while its on its way.
I hope you found my guide useful, if so please hit the "Yes" button, and good luck with your importing endeavors!