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China footwear standards update

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

by David Smith

Image © Hsu

China is currently the world’s largest shoe manufacturer and exporter. SATRA’s World Footwear Markets estimates that in 2014, Chinese companies manufactured 14.3 billion pairs of footwear – 64 per cent of all the footwear produced worldwide.

In addition to China being a footwear exporter, there is significant potential for importing footwear into the country. Nevertheless, selling into this market is not without its challenges, such as understanding and complying with Chinese standards, of which national ‘GB’ (Guobiao) standards are a major part.

There is a whole range of standards in China, covering everything from consumer products to codes of conduct for employees in the hospitality sector. The first national GB standards were published during the 1950s and 1960s, and typically followed those produced by the Soviet Union. Between the 1970s and 1990s, various Chinese legislative bodies began to create their own standards, and then started to adopt International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards in the new millennium.

The first standards for 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, published the national standards for shoe and last sizing.

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

Image © Xixinxing |

The Chinese footwear market provides realistic opportunities for high quality imported products

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

By 2006, almost 50 per cent of all the Chinese national GB standards in use were adopted from international standards, such as ISO or International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). China appears to be keen to increase the number of GB standards that are adoptions of international or advanced foreign standards.

There are four levels of Chinese standards: national, professional/ industrial, local/provincial, and 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:

As previously mentioned, ‘GB’ stands for ‘Guobiao’ (‘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’.


The GB 20265 standard covers moulded plastic industrial boots

Compliance with the GB standards is compulsory, and failure to comply with them can result in fines and other legal action. Companies have had importation of their footwear refused or stock has even been 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 Standardisation Administration of China (SAC). There are also several government organisations responsible for enforcing Chinese standards. Those most directly involved are:
AQSIQ – General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which oversees national quality issues and administers CIQ and QTS (see below) at a provincial level
CNCA – Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China under the authority of the AQSIQ. This body oversees quality assessment activities, including the CCC mark (China Compulsory Certification)
SAC – Standardisation Administration of the People’s Republic of China, responsible for writing many of the footwear standards. The SAC coordinates standard-setting activities in China, and represents China in ISO and IEC committees
CIQ – Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, that carries out inspections at ports
QTS – Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision. The QTS can inspect and test goods on the market, and can both destroy substandard goods and generate media exposure
SAIC – State Administration for Industry and Commerce. This ministerial-level authority is directly under the State Council. It is mainly responsible for regulating the market through administrative enforcement
CCA – Chinese Consumer Association (managed by the SAIC)
CNIS – China National Institute for Standardisation – affiliated with the AQSIQ, and oversees projects from
the SAC.

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. SATRA Bulletin will include details of relevant Chinese standards, beginning with GB 20265.

GB 20265 – 2006: Moulded plastic industrial boots
Standard summary Associated tests Known requirements
The GB 20265 standard specifies the technical requirements, test methods and marking of moulded plastic industrial boots with chemical resistance. It is applicable to the quality evaluation of plastic boots and rubber/plastic boots worn when working with acids, alkalis or other relevant chemicals. GB/T 528 – 2009. Rubber. Determination of tensile strain properties (ISO 37:2005). Stress at 100 per cent elongation and elongation at break at 23 ± 2°C. Uppers to have 1.3 to 4.6N/mm2, 250 per cent elongation at break. Sole to have 2.1 to 5N/mm2, 300 per cent at break.
GB/T 1690. Rubber. Determination of the effect of liquids.  
GB/T 5723 – 1993. Rubber. Dimensions of test pieces for test purposes (ISO 4648:1991). Thickness of upper at any point shall not be less than 1mm. Outsole thickness (excluding cleats) to be no less than 3mm. Tread depth to be no less than 4mm. Sole (no cleat) + insock to be ≥6mm.
GB/T 6031 – 1998. Rubber. Determination of hardness – between 10 IRHD and 100 IRHD
(ISO 48:1994).
Upper: minimum hardness 42, maximum hardness 50. Sole: minimum hardness 50, maximum hardness 67.
GB/T 9867. Rubber. Determination of abrasion resistance – rotating drum device (ISO 4649). Outsole abrasion – volume loss to be no larger than 250mm3.
Height of uppers (mm). Dependent on footwear style and shoe size (225mm to 285mm). Upper height from 103mm to 300mm.
Slip resistance. Specifications for the tread pattern. Base of tread pattern to be an arc with radius no less than 1.5mm.
GB/T 5723 – 1993. Rubber. Dimensions of test pieces for test purposes (ISO 4648:1991). Heel thickness (outsole plus midsole) shall be no less than 20mm.
Flexing resistance. Method specified in this standard. Machine comparable with SATRA vamp flexer. Upper: 150,000 flexes, shall be free from cracks. Sole: 150,000 flexes, cut increment not to exceed 6mm.
Volatility. Test specified in standard. Mass loss not to exceed 2 per cent. Test at 70 ± 2°C. Metallic container containing activated carbon.
Leak resistance. Test and machine specified. Must be free from air leakage. Tested in water tank at internal pressure of 10 ± 1kPa for 30 seconds.
Corrosion resistance: sulphuric acid 3.7kmol/m3, hydrochloric acid, and sodium hydroxide 6.1 kmol/m3. Mass variation not to exceed 2 per cent. Hardness variation not to exceed 10 IRHD. Test samples to be crack-free after flexing. Flexed soles to show crack growth ≤ 6mm.
Cold flexing. Uppers. Method specified. Flexing in conditions of -5 ± 2°C; 150,000 flexes.
Flexing resistance of boot soles. Machine and method specified. Sample prep detailed. Flexing frequency is 1 ± 0.1Hz. Cold flexing test also specified, at conditions of -5 ± 2°C. Nick cutter with blade length 2mm; 45° flex angle. 150,000 flexes.

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Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 38 of the January 2017 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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