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China has mostly been known for being the biggest manufacturing country in the world, producing pretty much anything available on this heart.
In the past years, we’ve also seen a shift where China tries to focus on imports rather than exports, boosting local consumption thanks to increased disposable incomes.
The government does its utmost to encourage foreign brands to export products to China, offering reduced taxes for cross-border eCommerce sales, reduced barriers, and more.
With that said, the country has also started to enforce stricter standards and certification procedures for brands who wish to sell in the country. With the increased adoption of foreign standards and measures to improve product quality, many foreign exporters are often aware of local regulations.
In this article, I explain what standards and certification procedures exist in China and what you have to consider before you enter the market.
- Mandatory and Voluntary Standards in China
- Adoptions of International Standards in China
- Different Types of Standards
- What authorities are involved in the registration and inspection procedures?
Mandatory and Voluntary Standards in China
China has both mandatory and voluntary quality standards that you should separate. Now, you might wonder why you would even waste money and time following voluntary standards.
You can stand out from competitors if you meet voluntary standards, hence make your products more competitive. This could be the case if your products are ecological, for instance.
Around 85% of all national standards are mandatory and the remaining 15% is voluntary. All companies are obliged to follow mandatory standards and make sure that their products are safe to use and not harmful to neither people nor properties.
Confirm the standards required for your products before entering the Chinese market. Otherwise, your products might be seized or sent back to their country of origin.
Adoptions of International Standards in China
Mre and more standards become harmonized with international standards like ISO and IEC in China. Besides, ISO and IEC have plans for expansion in the Asian region through so-called affiliate programs.
The programs ease the financial burden for emerging countries to become members of standard organizations and give them support to obtain international standardizations.
Adaption to international standards can be beneficial to foreign exporters as:
- Foreign and Chinese business owners can export and import products more easily (As products need to comply with the same or similar quality regulations)
- Increased competitiveness on a national and global scale (Companies work cooperatively for continued improvement of quality)
- Reduced risk to face quality issues (Foreign business owners search for Chinese suppliers on websites like Alibaba.
Alibaba has to spend both time and money to verify suppliers’ credibility, and often through third-parties. Currently, Chinese products do not need to comply with Western quality standards like CE or RoHS in the Chinese market.
CCC – China Compulsory Certification
China’s Compulsory Certification (CCC) mark is the equivalent to Europe’s CE-mark. CCC was established more than a decade ago and is mandatory for both foreign and domestically produced products in China. Your products can’t be affixed with a CCC-mark until they fulfill all mandatory standards required.
You should expect the following when you apply for the CCC-mark:
- The application process can take several months.
- An authorized Chinese laboratory must test your products.
- You must pay for the factory inspections performed by Chinese officials.
- In most cases, third party performed tests can’t be approved.
- You must send technical documents and product samples for analyzis.
Follow-up inspections may also be conducted on an annual basis and for the renewal of the CCC-certificate.
What products need the CCC-mark?
Products that need CCC certification can belong to the following product categories (not all are included):
- Electrical wires and cables.
- Circuit switches, electric devices for protection or connection.
- Low-voltage Electrical Apparatus.
- Electric tools.
- Welding machines.
- Household and similar electrical appliances.
- Audio and apparatus.
- Information technology equipments.
- Lighting apparatus.
- Motor vehicles.
- Safety glasses.
- Agriculture machinery.
- Medical devices.
- Fire fighting equipments.
As you can see, the CCC-mark is typically used for electronics, safety equipment, vehicles, house-appliances, and similar. If you export food or textiles, you typically don’t need to apply for the CCC-mark.
Different Types of Standards
The Chinese standards are divided into four different types called National standards, Professional standards, Local standards, and Enterprise standards. The structure of the standards can be seen as hierarchical.
1. National standards
The national standards are so-called GB-standards (Guobiao-standards) and often derive from international standards like ISO or IEC. Despite that, don’t take for granted that it’s sufficient for your products to meet international standards. If you are not experienced in China certification, I suggest you contact a distributor or a third party.
2. Professional standards
The professional standards are used if there’s no National standard existing. People also refer to them as industry standards, hence specific industry sectors use them for certain fields of products.
3. Local standards
These standards are also referred to as ”Provincial standards” due to their validness within a local area. The local standards are created when neither national standards nor professional standards exist, but safety requirements are required for a certain industry sector.
4. Enterprise standards
Single companies use (and sometimes develop) so-called enterprise standards. However, companies shall use the three standards above, in priority to enterprise standards.
What authorities are involved in the registration and inspection procedures?
The China Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ) and AQSIQ (The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine) are the two main authorities that manage registrations and inspections of goods that enter or leave China.
While AQSIQ used to directly manage the CIQ, CNCA, and SAC authorities, we’ve seen major changes and the merger of some authorities. After March 2018, the new State Market Regulatory Administration (SMRA) now oversees four different authorities:
- The State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO)
- The Food Safety Commission of the State Council (FSC)
- The Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA)
- Standardization Administration of China (SAC)
Nowadays, GACC (the customs) are solely managing the CIQ division. Thus, SMRA and GACC are the two authorities that manage all operations related to imports and exports, including quality standards and inspections.
It’s crucial that you maintain good relationships with the two if you are to import and export successfully to/from China.