For the last decades, cheap manufactured goods “Made in China”, have flooded global markets and brought benefits to people all around the world. But too often, Made in China was directly associated with low quality. This wrong stereotype has become a headache for Chinese enterprises and for the policy makers, both sides had to struggle to move from low-end growth to a more prestige model.
But this is about to change, this week at an executive meeting of the State Council, China’s cabinet, on Wednesday, senior leaders including Premier Li Keqiang discussed the need for Chinese industries to set more exacting technical standards, referring to established requirements for the minimum quality of their goods. “In an effort to push the economy to a medium-to-high level, raising product and service standards should be the key,” following the statements made by the Premier on the past meeting of the WEF in Davos, saying that as part of the new normal in the economy medium-high level of growth accompanied with innovation and investment and R&D as part of the key factors for the economic success.
According to a statement issued after the meeting. Chinese products used to win their share in the global market mainly by relying on quantity and low prices based on relatively low labour costs. Now, China has entered a period of waning labur cost advantages as the economy is stabilizing and modernizing. To make Chinese products and services more competitive, the country must optimize its standards system and toughen how these standards are enforced, as it is haunted by weak standards management and shoddy goods, the statement said.
The State Council vowed that China will improve laws and regulations on standardization, making standards a guarantee of quality. The government will revise current national, local and industrial standards. In areas such as health, safety and environmental protection, unified mandatory national standards will be introduced. Associations, chambers of commerce and industrial alliances are encouraged to set standards that meet the needs of the market and innovation. Under the State Council’s proposals, foreign-invested enterprises will also be given more chances to assist China in setting up more exacting domestic standards. “China should strive to make domestic standards acceptable, authoritative and credit-worthy worldwide, providing a ‘passport’ for Chinese products to compete in the global market,” according to the statement. Zhang Xiaogang, president of the International Organization for Standardization, said China’s emphasis on standards reflects its intention to make the world reassess the quality of Made in China products. “Ordinary companies make products, better ones build their brands, while the best enterprises set standards,” Zhang said. He believes that Chinese companies have made their share of contributions to the global economy and that some Chinese brands have penetrated the global market, but their ultimate goal should be participating in the establishment of international industrial standards. That is not going to be easy, as the standards in most sectors have already been drafted by Western countries. China may face obstruction if it wants to participate in and even dominate the setting of international standards, according to Zhao. Nevertheless, as the government has emphasized, standardization is “a road that must be taken” for Chinese companies to become strong competitors in the global arena.