On January 1, 2018, the Revised Standardization Law of the People’s Republic of China has come into force. The new Law modernizes and simplifies the previous standardization system established almost thirty years ago. The 1989 Standadization Law, in fact, did not meet the current needs for sustainable development and threatened to slow the Dragon’s growth.

The old Law provided for four categories of standards: national, industry, local, and enterprise standards. National, industry and local standards could be classified as either compulsory or voluntary standards, enterprise standards only as voluntary standards. Among such categories there was a hierarchy, so that industry standards could be developed in the absence of national standards, local standards could be issued in the absence of industry standards, and individual businesses could adopt enterprise standards dealing with aspects not regulated by other standards.

The new Standardization Law optimizes the compulsory standards system: only national standards issued by the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) and, more specifically, only those providing technical requirements for safeguarding human health and the safety of the person, state security, ecological environment security, and meeting fundamental needs of social and economic administration, can now be compulsory. Compliance with compulsory national standards, namely GB standards (Guobiao, ‘national standard’) -it is to be remembered- is the basis for achieving the CCC certification required for placing products on the Chinese market; alongside these latter are the GB/T standards (Guobiao/Tuijian), voluntary national standards.

Industry and local standardsare not compulsory any longer, they are only voluntary and must provide for technical requirements more stringent than those required by national standards.

In addition, the fields covered by standards are expanded to include ‘agriculture, industry, service industry, and social undertakings’, and are no longer limited to industrial products, environmental protection, and construction projects.

In order to encourage the adoption of private standards, the Law eliminates the requirement that enterprise standards must be filed with the standardization administration and other relevant departments of the local government, as companies must now only disclose the standards they implement on a dedicated online platform (http://www.cpbz.gov.cn). With the same aim, the Law gives legal status to group standards adopted by lawfully established social groups, including academies, associations, chambers of commerce and federations. Group standards do not require governmental approval, but their formulation is subject to the regulation, guidance and supervision of the SAC and relevant State Council departments.

Finally, the State confirms its commitment to actively promote participation in the formulation of international standards, and encourage the adoption of international standards in conjunction with national ones, all this would be intended to facilitate the progressive harmonization of Chinese and international standards.

As the revised standardization system is ultimately more systematic and up to date, it remains to be seen whether it will actually bring Chinese standards into line with international ones, and it will meet the challenges of China’s scientific and technological advances.

For the time being, producers on the Chinese market are warned that it is to be expected the updating and increase of national standards as a result of the change in the compulsory standards system, and the extension of the areas covered by technical standards.