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Standards, compliance and certification in China

By C.i. Process Shanghai
 
 
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Quality standards and certification in China

China standards are divided into 5 main categories : national, industrial, local or regional, company and association standards.

National standards (referred as GB or 国标) can be mandatory with technical regulations or voluntary. In any case, these standards take precedence over all others. The article below presents their organization, particularities and evolution of their actuality.

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information on China Standards and norms
 
  Publication updated on January 2, 2024      
 

Home > news and regulations > Standards, Certification and Compliance in the Chinese Market

 

1. The supervising authorities for Chinese standards

  • The Standardization Administration of China (SAC) is the central agency for all activities related to the development and promulgation of national standards.


    SAC China logo


  • The China National Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) coordinates the mandatory certification and testing matters. These include the formalities to conduct for the China Compulsory Certification (CCC) mark. CNCA is the main body responsible for overseeing conformity assessment policies. It supervises the work of the National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS). It accredits certification bodies, laboratories and inspection facilities.


    CNCA logo in China


  • Following a 2018 reorganization of most government agencies, SAC and CNCA are subagencies under the control of the State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR). The latter is the administration that takes over the functions of the former AQSIQ. The latter acronym was short for General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the PRC (中华人民共和国国家质量监督检验检疫总局).


2. What exporters need to remember before selling to China

a. Context and strategy of the Chinese authorities in terms of standards

  • Laws and regulations may refer to so-called voluntary standards, making the voluntary standard, in fact, quasi-mandatory.

  • For electrical devices, information & technology items, consumer products, fire safety equipment and automotive and motorcycle parts, China requires a manufacturer to certify the safety and quality. For all these product families, the CCC certification is mandatory to sell, export or import into China.

  • Other government agencies impose industry-specific norms or their testing requirements for the products under their control. These are in addition to the GB standards and the CCC mark. All of this can lead to costly and repetitive testing requirements. To check and evaluate before starting any approval process.

  • China's standardization law in effect since 2018 defines a new system. It includes the development of national standards by technical committees (TCs) and allows for other standard-setting processes. Committees that develop GB standards are accredited by the SAC (standards administration of China). TCs are composed of members from government bodies, industry associations, academia, Chinese companies, sino-foreign joint ventures and wholly foreign-owned companies. A lobbying opportunity.

  • In 2019, China regulators are implementing a Standards reform policy. It includes guidelines for drafting national norms, incentives for pioneering companies to participate in standards, and a plan to revise hundreds of norms already published.


    CNCA certificate of accreditation of foodstuffs in China

    Example of a CNCA certificate for a company exporting foodstuffs to China.


 

b. A comprehensive national standards project and norms for the long term

  • China has embarked on a longer-term research project to develop a national norms strategy. This project is called China Standards 2035.

  • As an illustration of this strategy, the authorities have implemented a new regulation applicable to cosmetics imported or produced in China. Since 2021, this program is called CSAR (Cosmetics Supervision and Administration Regulation). CSAR's registration and labeling requirements are updated once or twice a year by the NMPA authority . The registration requirements for selling in China are based on a case-by-case logic and differ according to a specific or ordinary purpose of the products. Particular provisions separately govern the regulations applicable to medical devices. Accordingly, the authorities regularly control that Chinese importers and distributors are duly qualified (licenses or permits).

  • Another example in a sensitive sector : in April 2021, the authorities issued two decrees requiring food exporters to register on an online Chinese customs platform. This is mandatory since 2022.

  • Any foreign company established in China and engaged in an import-export activity must register with an International Trade Operators Bureau. This formality is separate from the customs registration procedures. Chinese customs assigns a grade to each company that reflects its status, size and reporting behavior. Meanwhile, the social credit system (社会信用体系) launched in 2014 also aims to evaluate and regulate the behavior of companies as well as individuals.

  • More globally, in direct relation to the coronavirus pandemic, we have been witnessing a struggle for influence on the mutual recognition of vaccines. Stemming from a post-Covid-19 geopolitics, it illustrates the growing importance of China in the construction of global compliance rules.

c. Product compliance and CCC approval in China

  • The CCC (China Compulsory Certification) mark is the national safety and quality mark. It is required for over 430 categories of products (HS codes). If an exporter's product is on the list for CCC mandatory marking, it can only enter China after the mark is obtained (approval certificate + CCC label). These mandatory measures apply to both imported and local made products.

    CCC approval for export to China


    Example of a form to prepare a registration file for the Chinese CCC mark.



  • Obtaining this mark involves some formalities with the Chinese certification agencies. The approval procedures take at least several months, sometimes over a year. They cost variable test fees + travel expenses for the visiting inspectors at the manufacturer's place.

  • The process includes sending samples to one or more laboratories, testing to verify the product meets the specifications of applicable safety or electrical standards. The foreign applicant's production site must be inspected to verify that the range of products manufactured matches the tested samples. Finally, the testing authorities approve the application of the CCC marking logo to stick on the products.

  • The list of products subject to CCC certification is regularly updated but here are the main categories :

    Non-exhaustive list of products subject to CCC certification
    CCC mark in China


    1. Wires and cables
    2. Switches, electrical devices for protection or connection
    3. Low voltage electrical equipment
    4. Low consumption motors
    5. Electric tools
    6. Welding tools and stations
    7. Household and similar electrical appliances
    8. Audio and video equipment (excluding equipment for broadcasting services and cars)
    9. Information technology equipment (computers, monitors, scanners)
    10. Lighting equipment (excluding equipment with a voltage lower than 36 V)
    11. Telecommunications terminal equipment (telephones, terminals, etc.)
    12. Motor vehicles
    13. Motor vehicle tires (cycles, cars, trucks)
    14. Safety glass (vehicles, buildings, trains)
    15. Agricultural machinery (tractors, spreaders)
    16. Latex products (condoms)
    17. Medical devices (including X-ray equipment, scanners, electrocardiographs, pacemakers)
    18. Fire-fighting equipment
    19. Security protection products (intrusion detectors, alarms)
    20. Interior decoration and remodeling products (paints, ceramics, porcelain)
    21. Security parts and accessories for vehicles and motorcycles
    22. Toys

    Please note that many products not falling under the compulsory CCC certification can obtain a CQC or CCAP certification on a voluntary basis. These voluntary certifications signal to distributors and the end user that a certified product meets Chinese quality standards. Voluntary certification increases a product's competitiveness in the Chinese market.

    National quality labels hold much greater importance in China than similar quality labels in Europe or the United States, such as CE, NF, GS, or UL markings





d. Other product conformity certifications in China (CQC, CCAP, CEL, SELO, COPC)

AQSIQ China
COPC organic label in China
CNAS logo in China
CQC certification logo in China
CCAP certification for automotive market in China

 

  • Many products that do not fall under the compulsory CCC certification may require another certification, on a so-called voluntary basis. The logic and the certification process are similar. However, specific implementation rules and GB standards define their requirements. Among the compulsory or voluntary certifications, we find :

  • CQC (China Quality Certification) is the most significant certification body in China. In charge of the CCC certification, it also manages other types of voluntary certifications. The CQC mark is a quality label, used by companies seeking to stand out in the Chinese market and demonstrate a product's reliability. It covers a very extensive range of product categories. For this mark as well, factory audits and tests are required.


  • CCAP (Certification Centre for Automotive Products) is the certification body for components used in the automotive industry. It is responsible for the assessment and certification of compliance with local regulations and standards. Affixing the CCAP mark and label on a product also requires factory audits and product tests. This includes brakes, safety seats, headlights, etc.


  • CEL (China Energy Label) is a label that indicates the energy efficiency of an appliance. It is also known as the Chinese Energy Label. This certification system is mandatory and aims to promote the use of energy-efficient products. The CEL sticker is similar to other energy labeling systems worldwide. It has rating scales ranging from 1 (highly efficient) to 5 (less efficient). Products that require the CEL marking include household appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, televisions.


  • SELO (Special Equipment Licensing Office) is mandatory for certain types of special equipment, particularly those with a pressure greater than 1 bar. This certification is managed by AQSIQ, which is integrated into the SAMR (State Administration for Market Regulation). Equipment that requires a SELO license includes, but is not limited to, certain types of boilers, pressure vessels, lifting platforms, and passenger transport devices (including elevators). It is important to note that SELO certification is obligatory, and the absence of it can result in severe penalties, including the prohibition of importation or sale in China. The license is valid for four years and can be renewed.

  • COPC (China Organic Product Certification) is a Chinese ecological standard (GB/T 19630-2019) that allows the importation and commercialization of "organic" products in China. It is similar in principle to the French organic label, Agriculture Biologique (AB). Titled "Certification System for Organic Products," it is the current local standard for all categories of organic products, including agricultural products, aquatic products, processed foods, and animal feed. Its aim is to ensure that products labeled as organic are genuinely produced using organic methods. The standard provides the technical requirements and certification process to be applied. The requirements include environmental compliance, biodiversity preservation, and the absence of harmful chemical use. This standard is implemented by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and used by certification bodies such as the China Organic Food Certification Center (COFCC) and the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People's Republic of China (CNCA) for organic product certification.


3. Our registration and certification support services in China


  • Products certification : compared testing solutions with approved laboratories and preparatory file for the approval of electrical products, automotive components and other regulated products.

  • Preparation of approval files for foodstuffs with the China FDA authority .


 

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