On 4 April 2022, the State Council and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China released the Guidelines on Building a Unified National Market (hereinafter referred to as the Guidelines). The key goal of the Guidelines is to expand the scale of the domestic market through the removal of local protectionism rules and regional barriers, thus facilitating the market-based allocation of production factors and contributing to the implementation of the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Pan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and Vision 2035.

In the past, China largely relied on exports to sustain its economic growth. However, against the backdrop of uncertainties in external market and the needs for quality and stable economic growth, the country has started to attach greater importance to the growth of the domestic market through the establishment of a unified national market. Therefore, in support of this, the Guidelines outline five major actions and detailed instructions to be taken, specifically including:

  • Unifying the basic systems and rules for the market;
  • Strengthening the connection among facilities and platforms;
  • Building unified markets for the smooth flow of various production factors (i.e. land, labour, capital, technology, data and energy) across the country;
  • Promoting a unified market for goods and services;
  • Facilitating the standardised market supervision, law enforcement and the corresponding capacities across the country.

In order to facilitate the implementation of the various tasks, the Guidelines highlight the importance of the role of standards. Consequently, the Guidelines specify a wide spectrum of areas in need of standardisation: the registration of market entities, to anti-monopoly investigation, logistics, supervision, law enforcement, technical requirements of electronic tenders, general guidance, etc.

Among those, the key areas more relevant for foreign enterprises are:

  • Data factor m To facilitate the establishment of the data factor market, the Guidelines lay down requirements for standards development, specifications and basic rules, so as to ensure data security, data ownership protection, data cross-border management, data transaction and circulation, data sharing and certification, etc. Therefore, a more comprehensive approach to the standards system for data factor market establishment is expected.
  • Ecological market. The Guidelines require the establishment of harmonised sector standards for public resources transactions, such as carbon trade and water trade. In addition, the Guidelines emphasise green product labeling systems and certification of relevancy, with the aim to promote the green production and consumption.
  • Consumer product. Domestically, the Guidelines support the maximised utilisation of non-governmental forces in carrying out inspection and testing, and promote cross-industry and cross-regional interoperability and mutual recognition of certification results. Regarding international cooperation, the Guidelines put forward the commitment of aligning domestic standards with the international standards in key consumer goods, and promote mutual recognition of quality certification.
  • Improving standards system. The Guidelines reflect on the needs to establish effective standards system in various sectors, including the IoT, 5G, blockchain, AI, big data, energy storage, etc. In addition, several technologies for intelligent identification are required to be standardised, according to the Guidelines.
  • Fair treatment in requirements for inspection of standards. The local governments are required to provide fair treatment to all enterprises (local or non-local) while certifying their qualifications and licensing business permits. Furthermore, without legal basis, enterprises shall not be required by the government to carry out any self-test or self-inspection, nor provide any certificates before government provide their due services.