On 6th July 2022, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), and another 14 national authorities, released the Action Plan for Implementing the National Standardization Development Outline (hereinafter respectively referred to as the Action Plan and the Outline). The Action Plan specifies the key tasks and corresponding responsible bodies for guiding standardization development through the end of 2023. At the same time, some tasks are further clarified, which will help enterprises to be prepared for the upcoming standardization policies.

Before this, another critical document for the implementation of the Outline was published by SAC in February 2022, i.e. the Key Points of National Standardization (2022) (hereinafter referred to as the Key Points). While this document was mostly limited to SAC, the Action Plan extends the efforts to all the relevant governmental authorities and organizations. Specifically, each task in the Action Plans entails corresponding responsible bodies, while the detailed implementation is left to local governments. Such meticulous work distribution among ministries, governmental associations and local governments reflects China’s determination in promoting standardization development in the near future.

The Action Plan is structured on three parts: (i) standardization’s support to socioeconomic development; (ii) optimization of the standardization system; and (iii) supporting measures and policies. The tasks included in each part are assigned in accordance with the requirements of the Outline.

The following are the key takeaways that foreign enterprises in China should pay attention to:

  1. Standardizations support to the socioeconomic development
  • Incorporating standardization into governmental policies and planning. The Action Plan specifically highlights the importance of incorporating standardization into sectoral, regional, technological and commercial policies and planning. Therefore, it can be expected to see stronger reference to standardization aspects in upcoming policies.
  • Setting standardization as key indicator of achievement for national sci-tech. National sci-tech projects are funded by government authorities to support socioeconomic development. The Action Plan stipulates that standardization will become one of the evaluation indicators of the implementation of such projects, as it is expected that greater standardization would encourage the commercial application of new technologies, which in turn would further contribute to the innovation and optimization of new technologies. Therefore, for foreign enterprises, keeping pace with the upcoming standards will be helpful to optimize the production and benefit from governmental policies.
  • Focusing on key sectors. The Action Plan specifies key tasks for specific sectors, while supporting green and digital development as cross-cutting topics:
    • Equipment manufacturing: including numerically controlled machine tool, construction machinery, shipping equipment, and agricultural machinery;
    • Modern service industry: including smart logistics, cross-border e-commerce, finance, etc;
    • Consumer products: requiring standards to shift their focus from production to consumption, thus increasing domestic needs;
    • Emerging industries: including fields such as new materials, biotechnology, medical devices, digital technology, etc.
  • Highlighting coordinated standardization. The Action Plan sets the direction for the coordinated development of standards, thus connecting more effectively enterprises along industry chains and across different sectors. This is in response to the fact that, one change of a standard in upstream industries might consequentially lead to the corresponding revision of other standards in downstream industries.
  • Developing standards for new type of infrastructure.To support the establishment of a digital country with high-efficient utilization of resources, the Action Plan highlights the importance of standards development in sectors such as industrial internet, internet of vehicles, energy internet, etc. Standardized infrastructure will contribute to the optimization of resource control and mobilization.
  • Developing green standards:
    • Carbon peak and carbon neutrality. In order to reach the goal of carbon peak and carbon neutrality, the Action Plan outline a series of requirements for (i) standards for the calculation of carbon emissions and corresponding reports; (ii) national mandatory standards with high requirement in energy efficiency (for key energy-consumption products and sectors); (iii) development of standards for clean energy, carbon sink, carbon capture, utilization and storage. Furthermore, the National Carbon Peak and Neutrality Standardization General Group already established in March 2022, will be responsible for the development and implementation of standards related to carbon peak and carbon neutrality.
    • Conservation of natural resources. The natural resources that are specifically mentioned in the Action Plan are land resources, water resources, and mining resources. In particular for mining resources, the Action Plan requires to develop standards related to conservation technology, green exploration, and green mines. Those might impact the requirements for mining machinery and equipment.
  • Strengthening international cooperation in international standards formulation
    • Key sectors. According to the Action Plan, itis expected that China will strengthen its participation in the international standards formulation within a few key sectors, specifically: carbon peak and carbon neutrality, intensive utilization and conservation of resources, smart cities, food safety, animal and plant health, digital economy, cross-border e-commerce, digital finances, international trade single window, etc.
    • Key regions and international governmental organizations. Regarding international cooperation, the Action Plan prioritizes the mutual recognition of standards and the promotion of China’s standards abroad, through existing cooperation mechanism or projects led by China, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Belt and Road Initiative. The recognition and promotion will be mainly promoted in the form of beneficial contracts with the partners in the target. Other than that, the Action Plan only mentions regions or regional organizations with which China intends to maintain a dialogue and cooperation, including BRICS, ASEAN, Europe, Pan America, Africa and Gulf countries.
    • Compatibility with international standards. In order to promote the compatibility with international standards, China will continue to conduct comparative analysis and verification of the applicability of international and national standards in various fields, and speed up the transformation of advanced and applicable international standards. At the same time, in order to support the promotion of Chinese standards abroad, the Action Plan highlights the need of translating China’s compulsory national standards, and promoting the simultaneous establishment of Chinese and English versions of national standards projects. Currently, only around one thousand national voluntary and mandatory standards have been published, accounting for 2.5% of total national standards in force. Apart from national standards, sector standards and local standards are also encouraged to release English versions as needed.
    • Participation of foreign enterprises. The Action Plan particularly mentions that the government shall protect the legitimate rights of foreign enterprises in terms of participation in China’s standardization activities. Such participation will bring foreign views in the formulation process, which will contribute to the compatibility of standards both domestically and internationally.
  1. Optimization of standardization system
  • Promoting the innovation and reform of standardization
    • Conversion of mandatory sector standards into national mandatory standards. China’s current standards system is defined by the Standardization Law, which came into force on1 January 2018. Yet, the old system where the mandatory sector standards are still in place in some sectors (such as safe production, public security and taxation), contradicting the legal requirement that only national standards starting with GB can be mandatory. In order to resolve the contradiction, the Action Plan assigns the tasks for converting the mandatory sector standards to national standards. In this way, the identification of mandatory standards will be much easier and with higher
    • Development of high-quality association standards. In order to mobilize market forces in developing high-quality standards, in response to quick socioeconomic development needs and trends, association standards have recently gained great importance. The Action Plan continues to encourage the implementation of high-level associations incubation plans. Foreign enterprises therefore are advised to identify and apply high-quality association standards, particularly those which are officially endorsed by relevant governmental policies.
    • Formulation of local standards in major economic regions. The Action Plan encourages regional cooperation in the development of local standards in major economic regions, including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, the Yangtze River Economic Belt, the Yangtze River Delta Economic Area, and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Coordinated local standards across these regions will support the regional socioeconomic development more effectively.
  • Consolidating the foundations for standardization development
    • Application of advanced standards. The Action Plan requires the application of advanced standards in government policies and legal documents, certification and accreditation, inspection and testing, government procurement and tender activities. The application of advanced standards in those fields will represent a formal recognition from governmental policies and activities, which will further boost the development of standardization.
    • Capacity-building. The Action Plan requires the inclusion of standardization topics in university courses, as well as the formal recognition of relevant academic degrees and vocational skill certificates in the recruiting process. Meanwhile, online courses organized by technical committees, and other actions, will also be carried out to support capacity-building.
  1. Supporting measures and policies. In order to better serve the standardization careers, in line with the Action Plan the Chinese government will strengthen its efforts to provide financial support, not only through subsidies, but also through financial, credit and personnel policies. Other than policy support, financial institutions will also be encouraged to design financing and credit-related products.

Annex: List of tasks specified in the Action Plan