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The CNIS Mission

China’s National Standardization Strategies and Cooperation Between CNIS and ASTM

by Zheng Weihua

With China’s rapid economic growth and the continued improvement of its socialist market economy, standardization plays an increasingly important role and enjoys an enhanced status in the national economy and social development. Technical standards have become a major driving force for economic growth and social progress in general, with strategic long-term implications, while China’s entry into the WTO and the implementation of the national standards strategy pose unprecedented opportunities and immense challenges to China’s standardization efforts. As a result, the R&D efforts of the China National Institute of Standardization have entered a new stage of development.

A Brief Description of CNIS

CNIS is a public research institution affiliated with China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. It is a major R&D center for China’s standards, charged with the responsibility of developing and pioneering China’s research on standardization. The institute formulates theories, strategies and systems for standardization, and has facilities and tools for research, development, practical evaluation and field testing of all types of standards. It performs studies of standards for China’s emerging technologies, and enjoys the prestige of a national institution of standardization domestically and internationally.

CNIS was founded in 1999 and restructured last year. It is now composed of five affiliated institutes of standardization: the Institute of Standardization Theory and Strategy, the Institute of Basic Standards, the Institute of Resources and Environment Standards, the Institute of Information Technology Standards, and the Institute of Quality Control Standards. It also retains the previously established Research Office for Agriculture and Food Standards. It is now composed of five sub-institutes: Standardization Theory and Strategy, General Standardization, Information Standardization, Resources and Environmental Standardization, and Quality Management Standardization, as well as the Department of Agriculture and Food Standardization.

Other CNIS operational departments involved in or related to standardization include: Department of Technical Examination of National Standards, Library of Standards, and Product Examination and Approval Center for industrial products. It also serves as the secretariat for 10 national technical committees and five subcommittees for standardization in specific industries.

CNIS Goals for Development

CNIS has drawn up a five-year plan that projects significant growth for CNIS through its efforts in research and a marked improvement of its research capabilities, enabling it to serve major sectors of China’s developing economy, build a well-structured team of top-notch standardization researchers, set up state-of-the-art facilities for standardization research and essential lab testing, and produce high quality results. The institute aims to become a combined entity of standardization management and research, with a built-in operational mechanism that caters to the needs of the government and the demands of the market to offer high quality services. It will also serve as a research system that coordinates the research, formulation, implementation, and application of standards with enhanced financial strength.

CNIS and China’s Standardization Strategy

China’s technical standards were first developed under a planned economy, and bear the burden created by such a system. With dramatic economic and social changes at home and abroad and the task of improving the socialist market economy to achieve a higher level of prosperity, these standards must be adapted now to meet China’s strategic challenges of building the country through science and education and achieving sustainable economic development. The utility of these standards is challenged by new opportunities brought about by China’s entry into the WTO, as well as new challenges posed by competing standardization strategies of various countries throughout the world. CNIS is thus entrusted with the mission of designing China’s strategy for technical standards development. The Study of China’s Strategy for the Development of Technical Standards, a major national research project assigned to CNIS, is currently in progress, in which strategies, goals, and specific plans and arrangements are proposed for the development of China’s technical standards.

The strategic thinking behind China’s development of technical standards is: Focus on the market, build a system, and achieve accelerated development.

The strategic guidelines are: Use a market orientation with corporate entities as the backbone, supervised at the macro level by the government, with extensive involvement from the community.

The strategic goal is development in three stages from the time the strategy is implemented through 2050. Steps will be taken to ensure the achievement of milestones by stages and improvement by degrees — “improvement by degrees” meaning adapting standards to market conditions, management systems, operational mechanisms, technological content, internationalization, and standardization awareness of the public, with a focused objective at each stage to achieve breakthroughs by stages. These stages are:

• Create an initial system of modern voluntary technical standards by 2010 in order to achieve an overall improvement in the market’s acceptability of technical standards;
• Improve the standardization process by 2020 to enhance the status of China’s technical standards in the sphere of international standardization;
• Achieve prominent international status for China’s technical standards by the year 2050.

Utilization and Adoption of International and Advanced Foreign Standards in China

With the globalization of trade and the formation of regional economic blocs, standards are also becoming increasingly internationalized. It seems inevitable that the setting of national standards will move gradually from a system of mandatory to voluntary standards, will follow commonly accepted international practices, and will be modeled on international standards. In fact, it has become a requirement for member countries of the WTO to base their domestic standards on existing international standards and to gradually build a national system of technical standards geared toward internationalization.

The Chinese government has consistently pursued a policy of adopting international standards, and has made it an important component of its economic and technological policies. The state encourages voluntary adoption of international standards and requires enterprises to use market demands as a guideline, and follow international standards in production and business operation to improve the quality of their products and their technical expertise. As of the end of 2001, China had a total of 19,744 national standards, over 34,000 professional standards (on record), over 12,000 local standards (on record), and over 860,000 enterprise standards (on record through the end of 1999). Of the 19,744 national standards, 8,621 incorporated international or advanced foreign standards, accounting for 43.7 percent. There are currently a total of 17,910 International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards, and 6,364 of these have been converted into Chinese national standards, which accounts for 35.3 percent of the total. Table 1 shows the lending rate by readers of the main standards in the collection of the CNIS Library of Standards (National Library of Standards).

China’s 10th five-year plan includes explicit requirements for China’s adoption of international and advanced foreign standards, which include a 70 percent conversion of international standards into China’s national standards, a 75 to 80 percent conversion of standards for major products in major industries, and involvement in the development of 300 to 500 international standards.

Cooperation Between CNIS and ASTM

Although developed by a non-governmental institution, ASTM International’s standards have earned the trust of U.S. federal agencies and industries and national standards bodies worldwide because of their exceptional quality and excellent adaptability. ASTM standards are being adopted, adapted, or otherwise utilized by numerous countries and corporations, and exercise a profound influence on many aspects of people’s lives.

ASTM standards are adopted and extensively used within China as well. They have been referenced or adapted to varying degrees in the development of China’s national standards, professional standards, as well as enterprise standards for certain products.

Chinese users have utilized ASTM standards primarily in foreign aid programs and projects, product inspection and testing, product export, and product research and development.

Table 2 illustrates the utilization of ASTM standards in various technical areas within China.

China’s National Library of Standards has recently signed a comprehensive agreement with ASTM for bilateral cooperation, which will surely promote wider utilization of ASTM standards by Chinese businesses.


CNIS will provide China’s national economy with multifaceted technical assurance in standard development. It will also render technical advice and support for decision making to government agencies in terms of standardization strategies and WTO negotiations. It will play a vital role in advancing China’s technology, promoting structural adjustments in industries, improving product quality, and catalyzing the modernization of conventional industries. It will make every effort to serve as a core institution that turns China’s investment in standardization to the material benefit of society and business enterprises, and converts technological progress into social productivity.

CNIS is entrusted by Chinese standardization professionals to carry out the reforms of the science and technical system in depth, speed up the building of infrastructure and training of professionals, and make strides in improving its research capabilities and social services. CNIS is in its infancy but is moving quickly and with confidence onto the global stage. //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

Zheng Weihua is the vice president of the China National Institute of Standardization. He is mainly responsible for the research of general standards, standardization strategy and standardization theories, as well asthe management of standards information. Zheng is now studying at China University of Mining and Technology for a doctoral degree in management.