EU – China Similarities and Differences in Standardization

Standardization processes in the EU and in China are not always the same; fundamental differences exist both regarding the purpose of standardization and the methods of standard development. In China, standards are considered a tool from the government to support an industry. This puts the responsibility for standardization squarely in the hands of the ministry that oversees the respective industry. The industry itself plays a supportive rather than a driving role in the standard making process, even if their involvement has gradually increased.

This can be seen as one of the biggest differences with the European system where standards are developed by industry, for industry. Standardization in Europe is a voluntary process of developing technical specifications based on consensus among all interested parties: industry, including small and medium enterprises, consumers, trade unions, environmental non-governmental organizations, and public authorities, etc. European standards are business driven and anyone who is affected by a standard can have a say in its content.

On the other hand, standard development in China presents similarities to the European model. Most standards are compiled within Working Groups (WGs), which are part of various Technical Committees (TCs) in China. The members of the WGs participate as individuals and do not have to represent any position other than that of their own expertise. Members of a WG are appointed by the chair of the WG and need approval by the respective TC. The elaboration of a national standard follows the steps below:

• The working group drafts the standard, which is then circulated to stakeholders for public consultation.

• The draft standard is revised according to comments received from stakeholders.

• The Technical Committee ballots the draft standard.

• If the draft standard is approved, the Working Group finalizes it. If the draft standard is rejected, it is revised for further balloting.

• The final draft is then sent to SAC for verification.

• SAC assigns a reference number to the standard and publishes it.

• Each standard is usually reviewed every five years.

Participation in TCs follows the stakeholder principle: all interested parties are generally invited to join; this includes industry, special interest groups, academic and research groups, conformity assessment bodies, and governmental entities. TCs in charge of National Standards are supervised by the Standard Administration of China (SAC), while TCs in charge of the development of Sector Standards are supervised by their respective ministry.

China’s involvement in international standardization has been gradually growing. It has already started to export its standards to developing countries and to introduce Chinese standardization work at international level. Whilst the figures are not yet impressive, they continue to rise. China is also making substantial progress in the alignment of its domestic standardization system with international standards. In fact, despite the quickly growing number of standards, the rate of Chinese endorsement of international standards is steadily increasing.