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China’s footwear GB standards

GB standards and others to be met by companies manufacturing footwear for sale in China.

by David Smith

China is currently the world’s largest shoe manufacturer and exporter. In 2011, Chinese companies manufactured over 11 billion pairs of shoes – 60 per cent of all the footwear produced worldwide.

As well as China being an exporter of footwear, there is a vast potential for importing footwear into the country. This is an expanding market, in which high quality imported footwear can have a place. However, this market is not without its difficulties and challenges, including understanding and complying with Chinese standards of which national GB standards are a major part.

China has a whole range of its own standards, covering everything from consumer products to codes of conduct for employees in the hospitality sector. The first national GB standards were established during the 1950s and 1960s, mainly following those of the former Soviet Union. Between the 1970s and 1990s, various Chinese legislative bodies began to create their own standards, before starting to
adopt ISO standards in earnest in the new millennium.

The first standards covering footwear appeared in the 1970s, with the publication of four leather shoe standards. During the following decade, the ‘China Standardisation and Quality Inspection Central Station of Footwear Industry’ was founded. China became a member of ISO/TC 137 (standardisation of footwear sizing systems) in March 1980 and, two years later, the national standards for shoe and last sizing were published.

In 1990, the China Standardisation and Quality Inspection Central Station of Footwear Industry was divided into two branches and renamed the ‘National Standardisation Centre of Footwear Industry and Quality Inspection Centre for Footwear Industry of Ministry of Light Industry’.

In 2008, test methods were created for a wide range of materials and footwear-related products and components, and the National Technical Committee 305 on footwear (SAC) held its first meeting.

While some of China’s standards have been created entirely by technical organisations within its borders, many are adopted versions of existing standards – initially Russian, but more recently from the ISO. Some are equivalent to the corresponding ISO methods, and others are with modifications – either with different performance guidelines or slightly altered test parameters.

Image © Uwemalitz |

China is an expanding market with realistic opportunities for high quality imported footwear

By 2006, nearly half of all the Chinese national GB standards in use were adopted from international standards, such as ISO or IEC. Apparently, China is keen to increase the number of GB standards that are adoptions of international or advanced foreign standards.

What is SATRA doing to help Members?
In recent months, we have been gaining an understanding of how GB standards are enforced, as well as the factors that affect the chosen performance guidelines for the various footwear standards and the influence we can have in this field.

SATRA is working to forge closer ties with Chinese legislative bodies. We are also obtaining copies of Chinese standards for the purposes of checking the quality of the translation, and commenting on the differences between ISO standards and their adopted GB equivalents.

There are four levels of Chinese standards: a) national, b) professional/industrial, c) local/provincial and d) enterprise. These are hierarchical, with each type of standard taking precedence over the next type mentioned. For any given product or service, only one type of Chinese standard will apply. Chinese standards have a number reference and date of issue. They also have a prefix providing information about their relative importance, for example:

‘GB’ stands for ‘Guojia Biaozhun’ (‘national standard’). Many organisations are referring to these when they mention GB standards. The ‘T’ in GB/T standards means ‘Tuijian’ (‘recommended’). This T is affixed not only to GB standards, but also to standards of all other levels and categories – for instance, ‘DB/T’.

Compliance with the GB standards is compulsory, and failure to comply with them can result in fines and other legal action. Companies have had their footwear refused or even destroyed because they did not comply with Chinese legislation. While this may be due to a failure to comply with the relevant technical standards, it may also be a result of misunderstandings or differences in business etiquette.

Professional (or industry) standards were developed for products not covered by a GB national standard, but which still needed an agreed technical specification. Professional standards are industry specific and prefixed with a relevant code to indicate the type of industry to which they apply. For example, ‘HG’ is used for the chemical industry, ‘FZ; for textiles and ‘QB’ for light industry, which covers footwear.

Enterprise standards are developed and used by individual companies where national, professional, and local standards are not available. However, they do not carry the same weight as professional or national GB standards, which Western brands doing business in China should use where available.

Chinese standards are regulated by the SAC (Standardisation Administration of China). There is also a number of government organisations responsible for enforcing Chinese standards.

Those most directly involved are:

Footwear, like any other consumer product, is covered by several Chinese GB standards, and the information in this article is intended to be an overview of these standards.

How can we help?

We hope that this short introduction to GB standards will be a useful guide which will also prompt further discussions on the subject. Please email to provide your observations, or to contact our China office.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 8 of the July/August 2013 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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