To clarify a little more: in at least .nl the local post company (TNT Post Group) ‘helpfully’ handles customs and VAT for end-recipients… for a nontrivial fee, that is then imposed upon delivery, which in turn means you cannot receive the package unless you actually pay on the spot, or go to the nearest post office, a day or maybe two later, and pay there. Having the option of dealing with customs and VAT beforehand tends to at least halve the fee, and makes delivery itself a much smoother process.
Hence I would much prefer to pay VAT and customs fees in advance so that it is all taken care of and doesn’t have to be dealt with at the point of reception.
Furthermore, if I understand correctly TNT Post actually has offices in Shenzhen to deal with exactly the problem of handling customs and VAT for .eu delivery… both lowering fees and expediting delivery. Maybe something that might be looked into?