Certification and Government Approvals
If you are planning to import and/or sell your products on the Chinese market, you are most likely required to apply for Chinese certification and approval of your products. The most common consumer goods that requires certifications are; cosmetics and beauty products, food and nutritional supplements, electrical appliances and lighting products, toys, etc.
Some certifications can be relatively easy to secure, whereas others require years of testing and substantial investments in government and agent fees. We sometimes recommend foreign companies to initiate the market entry with a low-cost entry model, like cross-border ecommerce, as products sold through this sales channel are exempted from China certifications. The investment into certifications can then be made on a later stage when the market demand has been tested.
Chinese product certification standards are to a large extent aligned with the European International Standards Organization and American Standard Test Methods. However, China has independent applications for testing procedures that must be conducted in a licensed Chinese laboratory. Below, we discuss some of the major certifications in China.
China Compulsory Certification, CCC
The China Compulsory Certification mark (most often referred to as “triple C” – or “CCC)” is a compulsory safety mark for domestically-manufactured as well as imported products listed in the CCC Product Catalogue. The CCC is required for products like electric appliances, vehicles, safety glasses, medical equipment and toys. CCC was implemented on May 1, 2002 and became fully effective on August 1, 2003.
The CCC certification process usually takes between four to eight months. A designated test laboratory in China will test product samples and the certifying authority will send representatives to inspect the manufacturing facilities. CCC certificates are valid for five years from the original date of issuance. The CCC certificate and permission of printing the CCC label must be renewed annually as part of a follow-up certification, which involves a one-day factory audit.
To clarify if a product must be CCC certified, it is also helpful to look at the Guobiao (Chinese for national standard, GB) standards for the product. GB standards are the basis for the testing, which products must undergo during the CCC certification. GB standards are national standards issued by the SAC. Mandatory standards are prefixed “GB”, while voluntary standards are prefixed “GB/T”. They are followed by a standard number. The Standardization Administration of China, SAC, maintains a database of all GB Standards, which is searchable in English or Mandarin. Standards can be searched using various criteria such as standard number, standard title, ICS code, date of issuance, or relevant technical committee.
Some products listed in the CCC Product Catalogue, such as those that are used for scientific purposes and product testing, or to be displayed at trade fairs, may be imported without a CCC certificate. Apart from this, products that are required to have a CCC certificate will not be able to be imported into China without the proper certification in place.
China Inspection and Quarantine Certifications, CIQ
All imported products into China must be listed in the Catalogue of Import and Export Commodities and inspected by Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Institutions. Upon approval, the products are provided with a China Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ) certificate that allows them to be used and sold in China.
The consignee or agent should apply for the inspection with the inspection bureau located at the place of Customs declaration. Registered agencies at inspection authorities can be hired to help process the inspection declaration by proxy. The Customs will release the imported commodities only after verifying the CIQ certification.
Medical Products Import
Heavier restrictions are imposed on the import of medical products, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, skincare, and pet food.
In order to pass through Chinese Customs, the consignee must apply for a Medical Product Import Clearance Form (Clearance Form) with a drug administration authority located in the approved port. To apply for the Clearance Form, a Medical Product Import Registration Certificate (Registration Certificate) issued by the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) is required.
CFDA will test the drugs and ensure the drugs are safe and effective and meet the quality standards before they issue the Registration Certificate, and can withdraw it if the drug is found to cause adverse reactions or is harmful to the human body. Drugs without a Registration Certificate are prohibited from being manufactured, imported, sold, or used in China.
There are different testing requirements depending on the functions/claims of the products. While it may be relatively easy to get the CFDA approval for some products, others will require clinical human testing and take up to 3 years to get approved. Note that animal testing will be required for most products – something that has refrained many global cosmetic brands from entering the Chinese market. Only products manufactured inside China can be exempted from animal testing.
In May 2016, the CFDA is will issue a new law governing nutritional supplements.