Suggestion: Watch the 10 minutes video tutorial before reading this article
Before you export to China, it’s important that you make sure that your products meet local Chinese regulations and standards.
This is mandatory before you can even clear the customs and sell the products to local consumers.
If you don’t have the certificates and documents needed, you’ll risk that the customs seize your goods, get heavy fines, or get kicked out of the Chinese market.
In this article, I explain GB standards, what these are, why you need to comply with them, and more.
- What are GB Standards?
- GB Testing for CCC and Other Certification
- Do I need to have a CCC mark if my products have GB-standards?
- Which GB standards are needed for my products?
- GB Standards for Product Lab Testing
- How can I find GB standards?
- Voluntary and Mandatory GB Standards
- Which authority issues GB standards in China?
What are GB Standards?
GB is an abbreviation of Guobiao (国标) which translates to ‘National Standards’ in Chinese.
The standards are used for all kinds of products and most of them have derived from the ISO standards we use in the West.
This is good for one reason:
As your products already comply with ISO standards used in the West, there’s a big chance you’ll have less issue to meet the local GB standards.
For some products, especially those that are edible, used by humans (like cosmetics), or have that an impact on safety, more and stricter GB standards apply.
Not only are the standards used for the product quality, but also for labeling, usage, storage, and more. For example, if you want to export wine to China, there are specific GB-standards explaining how the bottles should be labelled.
Information required on the label, according to the GB labelling standard, can be to show:
- Location of manufacturing
- Expiry date
- Storage instructions
GB Testing for CCC and Other Certification
I’ve worked with Sales in the Automotive industry for years. When receiving an RFQ (Request For Quotation) from customers, there’s always a document attached including technical prerequisites for products.
Not only do clients want you to produce products according to their needs, but the products also need to comply with national regulations (related to emissions for example).
That’s why the EU uses ISO standards. Before you’re able to put the CE mark on your products, you first need to do product testing, showing that you meet the ISO standards required for that product (industry).
The same it goes in China, where the equivalent of CE is called CCC (China Compulsory Certification). If you want to get your products certified with the CCC mark, which is required for many products before you can even sell them in China, you first need to meet the GB standards required to get the CCC.
Do I need to have a CCC mark if my products have GB-standards?
No, you don’t necessarily need a CCC mark just because there are GB standards for your products.
As mentioned, there are GB standards for everything from the labeling of meat products to the usage of lipstick. Still, these products don’t require a CCC mark.
Giving you a comparison with Europe, the CCC mark is equivalent to the CE mark while GB standards are similar to ISO standards. I hope this explains the difference between the two.
Which GB standards are needed for my products?
First of all, you need to figure out what HS codes are used for your products.
I’ve already written a complete article about HS codes, to make a long story short, these are used to classify products traded worldwide, even if the number of digits can differ between countries (usually between 6-10).
With the help of the HS codes, the Chinese authorities and customs can judge exactly what type of products you intend to import into China, hence they know what test certificates and other documents to request from you.
To summarize, by determining the correct HS codes for your products, you’ll be able to find out what GB standards you need to meet.
GB Standards for Product Lab Testing
Before you’re able to sell your products to Chinese consumers, you sometimes need to get them tested in a certified laboratory, often located in China.
As explained by Amanda Lau and Laura Ho at CIRS in our separate interview, it works like follows:
- Products on the List of Entry-Exit Commodities Subject to Inspection and Quarantine need to be tested in local certified labs, through so-called entry-exit inspections (performed by CIQ). These labs are often located in proximity to airports or harbors
- Products that need CCC certification (listed in the Catalogue of Products subject to Compulsory Certification) must be tested in designated Chinese labs
The lab will test your products according to different GB-standards. Some standards can analyze, for example, the flammability (used for toys), chemical components, corrosion and more.
Examples of GB Standards
GB standards are issued for a wide range of product categories, including:
- Food, Beverages, Agricultural Products
- Health & Beauty Products
- Electronics & Appliances
- Chemical & Petroleum Products
- Clothes & Textiles
- Vehicle & Transports
- Mining & Metallurgy
- Machinery & Equipment
- Home & Household
- Public Services
- Energy & Electricity
- Urgan Construction
- Telecommunication & Network
Below you can find GB standards used for food products:
GB 7718 2011
General Rules for the Labeling of Prepackaged Foods
Labeling guidelines for prepackaged beverage
General Standard for the labeling of prepackaged foods
Labeling issues often result in products being rejected by Chinese customs. This is both time-consuming and can cost sellers much money due to tied-up capital and products that cannot reach end-consumers.
It’s of great importance that you work with a reliable partner that can help you confirm the applicable GB standards and assure that you meet those prior to exports.
How can I find GB standards?
You have a handful of options when looking for GB standards. Below, I’ve included some recommendations from my side:
Search for GB Standards Online
There are a number of websites that offer monthly or yearly packages, where you pay to get access to translated GB standards.
Even if this is a bit risky in my view, the Chinese government could decide to translate and release the standards in one day if (or when) they feel that the time is appropriate.
These websites often have search functions, where you simply input the product you intend to export, and a list of GB standards shows up. However, keep in mind that standards might be missing, or be redundant.
One example is GBStandards.org where you can download GB standards written in Chinese for free, while they also sell translated GB standards. It cost you around USD 15 per standard, which is reasonable if you just need a handful.
Contact or Visit AQSIQ’s Website
You can contact or visit AQSIQ’s website and look for information. AQSIQ is the authority appointed by SAC to manage the administration of GB-standards.
Keep in mind though that it’s a daunting task, as the Chinese government pages often look somewhat ‘cryptic’ and lack much information. There’s a reason why private companies have translated the standards, selling them online.
I recommend you to read my separate article if you want to know more about AQSIQ and their responsibilities.
Find a Company that Specializes in Helping Exporters
It can be a good start searching for GB standards online, but I recommend you to seek help from a professional company, to determine the exact standards valid for your products.
It’s very frustrating to perform testing and missing out on standards, which can result in the China customs seizing your goods.
Visit Other Countries’ Government Pages
You can find vast information on government pages, other than China’s.
For example, New Zealand and the United States have government pages which are very useful. You can find information either directly on their websites, or download PDF-files for free.
Consult with Your Chinese Importer
Your Chinese importer can help you in the process to look for the correct standards.
He or she is working on the ground and might well be able to confirm what the correct standards are. Still, I recommend confirming with a third party which standards are valid.
Voluntary and Mandatory GB Standards
GB standards are either mandatory or voluntary. Most of them (85%) are only voluntary, while the remaining 15% are mandatory.
So does this mean that you shouldn’t test your products for voluntary standards? Not always.
Testing your products with voluntary standards might seem redundant, but it can be very helpful to show that your products have unique features of competitors’ products.
Saying that a product is organic can increase your sales and make you shine over your competitors.
How can I recognize whether a standard is voluntary or mandatory?
You can judge whether a standard is mandatory or voluntary as follows:
- GB: Mandatory
- GB/T: Voluntary standard
The extra ‘T’ added to the voluntary standard comes from the Chinese word Tuijian (推荐) which translates to Recommended/Voluntary.
There are also GB standards for guiding technical documents, written as GB/Z.
Which authority issues GB standards in China?
As mentioned above, AQSIQ is the authority that operates under SAC (the Standardization Administration of China) and manages the administration of GB standards.
Other entities who help the two mentioned above include:
- CNIS (China National Institute of Standardization)
- SPA (Standards Press of China)
- CAS (China Association of Standardization)
What happens if my products don’t meet the GB standards needed?
If the Chinese customs or CIQ discover that your products don’t meet the GB standards needed, you won’t be able to clear the customs.
The products will in such a scenario be kept by the customs or the CIQ and eventually be sent back.
Again, this results in time losses and costs that can, in a worst-case scenario, result in poor customer feedback and reduced sales.
Which companies can help me with GB standards?
There are a handful of companies that you should contact if you need help with consultation, testing, and certification according to GB standards.
Examples of companies that provide these kinds of services are:
It can be worthwhile to contact these companies and request an initial consultation and perhaps a tailored quotation if you cannot find sufficient information online.
GB standards are Chinese national standards that assure that your products comply with everything from labeling, safety, usage, and more. Worth mentioning is that GB standards do not only exist for physical products, but also for services.
85% of the standards are voluntary while only 15% are mandatory. With that said, following voluntary standards is not negative whatsoever as this can enhance the brand image of your product.
Most GB standards have derived from Western ISO standards, you need to test your products to able to apply for the CCC mark, for example. This makes registration easier as your products most likely already comply with regulations in the US and/or Europe.
Locally designated test labs also use GB standards when determining whether your products are compliant to be used in the Chinese market.
If you need help to test your products and with a consultation about GB standards, feel free to contact us by email or by writing a comment below.