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2021-12-02 | All chapters

European Chamber cautions that China’s state-centric approach to standardisation risks standards decoupling

2nd December 2021, Beijing – The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (European Chamber), in partnership with the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and the Swedish National China Centre, today published The Shape of Things to Come: The Race to Control Technical Standardisation. The report identifies technical standard setting as a battleground on which states are fighting to gain dominance in strategic technologies, such as 5G, artificial intelligence and new electric vehicles.

The report is based on a survey and extensive interviews with European Chamber members, and research conducted by the report’s author Dr Tim Rühlig. “Although China has recently reformed its standardisation system, its overall approach is state-centric. This, coupled with its rapidly growing footprint in international standardisation, is contributing to the politicisation of a field that has traditionally been largely technical and privately-driven,” Rühlig said.

Standards provide a common language that facilitates universal interoperability of technologies, and many that we rely on today, such as Wi-Fi, are already internationally established. However, many of the standards that will underpin the technologies set to become ubiquitous over the next decades are still up for grabs. Although developing these standards through consensus-driven, technical discussions among a broad set of stakeholders would provide the most universal value, countries and companies can gain greater individual economic benefit if they can impose or set their own standards at the global level. This has led states such as China to take a more strategic approach to standards-setting, which has raised the risk of bifurcation, fragmentation and decoupling of standards internationally.

“There is growing concern that China will continue to take a state-driven approach to technical standard setting in order to serve its industrial policy agenda of becoming a global leader in strategic technologies,” said Björn Fägersten, director of the Europe Programme at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. “Policymakers in Europe need to acknowledge this and make standards a default part of trade and industrial policy, while continuing to take a privately-driven approach to standards setting.”

European companies are active in standard setting in China, but the report shows how many, particularly those involved in strategic sectors, such as automotive, ICT and rail, encounter direct and indirect barriers to their participation in standardisation.

“While our members are engaged in standards setting, given the increased importance of China and its expanding presence in international standardisation they should be investing a lot more,” said Jörg Wuttke, president of the European Chamber. “This report should alert our members, and our governments back home in Europe, to the fact that they cannot fall asleep at the wheel – we must not allow decoupling of standards to take place. The European Chamber will also continue to advocate the Chinese authorities for equal access to standard setting in China.”

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中国欧盟商会发布研究报告,提示政府主导标准化活动可能引起“脱钩”风险

2021年12月2日,北京 — 中国欧盟商会携手瑞典国际事务研究所和瑞典国家中国中心于今日发布研究报告—《抢占先机: 得标准者得市场》。该报告指出,技术标准制定已成为各国争夺诸如5G、人工智能、电动汽车等高科技领域主导地位的关键战场。

本报告基于对中国欧盟商会会员公司的专项调查和访谈,以及主笔Tim Rühlig博士的相关研究。 Rühlig先生认为 “尽管中国最近对其标准化体系进行了改革,但总体方针是由政府主导。再加上近来中国在国际标准制定中的影响力提升,导致了这个传统上主要由技术和企业主导的领域政治化。

标准提供了一种共同的语言,规范了技术的互操作性。许多我们今天所依赖的标准,比如Wi-Fi,在国际上已经很成熟。然而,许多支持未来主要技术的标准仍有待制定。尽管通过利益相关者进行基于共识和技术的讨论来制定这些标准将为各方带来好处,但如果国家或公司得以在全球范围内使用自己的标准,他们则可获得更大的个体经济利益。这便导致一些国家对标准的制定采取了更有利于自身的作法,也增加了导致国际统一标准分歧、碎片化和脱钩的风险。

"人们担心中国将继续采取政府主导的方式来制定技术标准,以便成为在关键技术领域的全球领导者,"瑞典国际事务研究所欧洲项目主任Björn Fägersten表示,"在继续由企业主导标准制定的同时,欧洲各国政府应当充分认识到中国的影响力,并将标准制定纳入国家贸易和产业政策考量的必要组成部分。"

欧洲企业积极参与中国标准制定。但报告显示许多企业,特别是那些涉及战略技术的企业,如汽车、信息和通信技术以及铁路等,在参与标准化制定时遇到了直接和间接的障碍。

"虽然我们的会员企业涉足中国标准化活动,但考虑到中国不断扩张的影响力及其在国际标准化制定舞台上的活跃程度,企业们应该更加积极主动地参与其中。中国欧盟商会主席伍德克表示,"这份报告提醒着欧洲企业和政府,在标准制定的问题上不能懈怠。不能允许脱钩的情况发生。中国欧盟商会也将继续和中国政府沟通,让欧洲企业享有平等参与中国标准制定的权利"。

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