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Market News New standardistion strategy “China Standards 2035”

Author / Editor: Dr Gerhard Steiger / Steffen Donath

The effects that can be expected for mechanical engineering in Germany and Europe are examined in this article.

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Centralist state controlled activities are confronted with individually driven industrial initiatives.
Centralist state controlled activities are confronted with individually driven industrial initiatives.
(Source: Christian Wiediger (Unsplash))

With China’s intended transformation from the world’s extended workbench to an export-oriented technology provider, standardisation has increasingly been used as a strategic instrument by the Chinese side for about 10 years. In this context, standardisation particularly addresses those areas that are defined as priority technologies in the respective five-year plan. Accordingly, in the mechanical engineering sector, specific Chinese standardisation activities in relation to intelligent manufacturing processes in the machine tool sector could be observed based on the 12th Five-Year Plan which expires in 2020.

In China, it was recognised years ago that Chinese participation at the level of the international standards organisations ISO and IEC does not correspond to the country’s increasing economic importance. Therefore, considerable efforts have been made in the last decade to increase the presence in international standardisation. In the corresponding statistics, China now ranks third behind the USA and Germany. Due to massive state funding, there is an increase in Chinese initiatives, particularly in those areas of standardisation where the state has defined these as priority topics. At the same time, there is an increasing attempt to introduce national Chinese standards as the basis for an international standardisation project.

Wherever the Chinese side is involved in international standardisation with massive personnel (financial) input, the effort required for the until now relevant circles of experts from Germany/Europe, the USA and Japan to present and implement their positions inevitably increases.

It can be assumed that Chinese influence in international standardisation will continue to intensify in the coming years under state guidance. However, this does not necessarily mean that China will take on a dominant role in ISO and IEC. Standardisation can only achieve the desired effects on the market if technical solutions with added value for the industry are specified. State control without adequate consideration of industrial concerns is therefore not necessarily successful.

From an industrial perspective, China’s commitment to international standardisation in ISO and IEC is not objectionable in principle, because it can counteract other Chinese strategic approaches to achieving technological dominance. Unfortunately, however, it can be increasingly observed that the adoption of international standards by ISO and IEC in China as a whole is continuing to decline from a low level (2010: 35 %) to a further decline (2019: 24 %). In addition, such adoptions are then often still associated with national deviations. Thus, such standard adoption may result in technical barriers to market access, which contradicts the fundamental objective of standardization work in ISO and IEC. Far more critical is another strategic approach in the field of standardisation, in which China is attempting, within the framework of its “Belt and Road Initiative”, to give international validity to Chinese standards relating to infrastructure projects via bilateral agreements with the respective countries. This initiative, which, if successful, could seriously undermine international standardisation at ISO and IEC, should be resolutely counteracted at national and European level.

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