On November 26, 2019, SAC issued the Notice on Promoting the Parallel Development of Chinese National Standards and Their Foreign Language Versions. The main content is as follows:
- Parallel Project Initiation
The foreign language version of a Chinese national standard will be developed simultaneously when said standard has the following purposes:
- Helps reduce the institutional transaction costs of foreign trade and foreign investment
- Facilitates import and export
- Promotes international cooperation
- Improves the business environment
- Promotes bilateral and multilateral relationships
The related TCs/SCs/WGs are encouraged to simultaneously develop the corresponding foreign language versions, excluding the projects that adopt international standards identically or with modification. SAC is responsible for assessing, call for comments, and approving these projects.
- Parallel Development
The SDOs shall simultaneously work on Chinese and foreign language versions of the national standards of eligible projects when doing the drafting, call for comments, technical review, and submission for approval.
- Parallel Issuance
SAC will ensure the parallel issuance of the Chinese and foreign language versions of national standards by simultaneously reviewing, approving, and publicizing.
After the issuance of the foreign language versions of national standards, the corresponding SDOs should assess their applications, review and revise them in time. When revising a national standard that has foreign language versions, the revision of the foreign language versions should be done at the same time.
Although China has completed and published around 500 English versions of Chinese national standards spreading across a wide range of technical and product areas, it is a small number considering China has more than 36,000 national standards and tens of thousands of sector standards. The Chinese government still has a long way to go for promoting its standards internationally this way. It is expected that the Chinese government will further strengthen the work of developing foreign language versions of Chinese standards in the future to reach their ambitious goals; the release of this notice indicates their determination and effort.
Developing foreign language versions of Chinese standards may be difficult for many Chinese TCs/SCs/WGs because of the considerable resources needed and the unforeseeable benefits. The notice mentions the government will “encourage” TCs/SCs/WGs to develop foreign language versions of national standards, but it does not specify what kind of encouragement. Local SDOs are very likely to lose steam when they fail to gain enough financial support, so the government is likely to introduce other incentive measures.
Foreign language versions of Chinese standards can, on one hand, make it easier for overseas enterprises to enter Chinese market and, on the other hand, will give Chinese standards more exposure and influence in the international standardization community. European stakeholders should actively participate in Chinese standardization work and exert influence internally, which is an efficient way to eliminate future issues caused by differences among standards.