The National Computer Quality Supervising Center (NCTC): A Core Chinese Global Capability (Part 4)

2013-01-19 by Dr. Xin Song, Leonard Zuga, and Professor Michael Pecht

Specialized Test Services

China Compulsory Product Certification

All electrical equipment manufactured in China or imported to China must comply with the regulations for China Compulsory Product Certification, abbreviated as CCC or 3C, which were issued by AQSIQ in December 2001. The supervision and management of the electronics market by CCC were implemented on August 1, 2003, when the establishment of CCC was announced by AQSIQ and the Certification and Accreditation Administration of China. CCC is the statutory compulsory safety certification system, serving as the basic approach to safeguard consumers’ rights and interests and protect personal property safety. The NCTC says that it has been adopted by international organizations as well.

The items subject to CCC include 135 products, which can be divided into 20 categories, such as household appliances, motor vehicles, motorcycles, safety glasses, medical devices, lighting apparatuses, cables, and wires. The CQC is appointed to undertake the work of compulsory product certification for 17 categories within the CCC catalogue. NCTC has a contract with CQC to carry out CCC tests in the following areas:

  • CNCA-01C-021:2001 Electronics equipment for finance and trade
  • CNCA-01C-020:2001 Servers
  • CNCA-01C-020:2001 Portable computers
  • CNCA-01C-020:2001 Display equipment
  • CNCA-01C-020:2001 Embedded power supplies
  • CNCA-01C-020:2001 Printers

European Conformity Certification

The European Conformity (CE) marking (formerly EC mark), is an obligatory product mark for the European market that applies to products regulated by certain European health, safety, and environmental protection regulations. CE marking indicates compliance certification according to the requirements formulated in the 22 European CE marking directives and subsequent European standards.

Therefore, the CE marking is important for manufacturers and importers placing products in the European market. CE markings on electronic products demonstrate that the products have been subjected to the appropriate conformity assessment procedure(s), indicating their eligibility to be placed in the European market.

In 2001, the China Operating Departments of CCQS (a UK-based company established in 2001 and accredited by the European Union Committee and United Kingdom Government as a Notified Body, which offers certification and consultancy services related to compliance with European Union CE marking for product safety) was set up in Beijing. However, it is the NCTC that provides examinations and technical document reviews of CE certification and consultancy services for Chinese manufacturers.

The Chinese competition with the United States is heating up in the Pacific. The Chinese approach to competition with the United States really is based on the game of go, where presence and eroding the adversary’s strength is the objective, not blowing them up. Credit Image: Bigstock 

Energy Conservation Product Certification

The China Energy Conservation Program (CECP) was officially founded in October 1998 with approval from AQSIQ and the Certification Accreditation Administration of China (CNCA). It is one of the organizations with the responsibility to fulfill the requirements of the “Energy Conservation Law” of the People’s Republic of China. CECP is a non-profit organization with independent legal status that is in charge of the organization, management, and implementation of the certification for energy-conserving products, water-saving products, and environmentally friendly products.

In 1998, CECP began the energy conservation certification program with residential refrigerators, and then expanded it to more than 90 product categories, such as home appliances, lighting, electronics, office equipment, industrial products, water-saving products, and environmentally friendly products. Together with the Central United (Beijing) Certification Center Co., Ltd., and the China Quality Certification Center, NCTC performs energy-saving certification and inspection of environmental labeling products for computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, digital multi-function office equipment, switching power supplies, and power adapters. In 2007, with the China Standardization Institute, the NCTC helped to collect standard efficiency data for PC monitors and copy machines.

Certification for China’s Home Appliance Subsidy Program for Rural Areas

The NCTC plays a significant role in the Chinese government program “China’s Home Appliance Subsidy Program for Rural Areas,” which allows people from rural areas to buy home appliances with direct incentives from the government. These home appliances include products such as washers, color TVs, refrigerators, freezers, mobile phones, electromagnetic cookers, microwaves, air conditioners, computers, and heaters.

The NCTC, selected by the Ministry of Finance Economic Development Department, is one of the main test labs for certifying these home appliances that will eventually be sold to rural areas. For computer products, the incentive from the government is 13% of the product price, but not more than RMB 455. The China National Electronics Import  Export Corp. (CEIEC)—representing the Ministry of Finance Economic Development Department, the Ministry of Commerce Comprehensive Department, and MIIT—has been sending out bids for computer products.

Consulting  Supervision Division of the NCTC

The NCTC Consulting Supervision Division provides recommendations and management on the construction of information systems, including design in the planning phase, supervision and testing in the implementation phase, project evaluation in the operation and maintenance phases, and building an integrated business module with all project steps.

The division’s accomplishments include construction consultation on the digital library of national defense for the science and technology industry, network security of defense technology information, high-definition digital television systems for a defense technology base, a network expansion project for the Beijing dance academy, evaluation of the disaster recovery room and the data center of Sichuan Telecom, and evaluation of the engine room of Beijing Telecom.

Inspection Equipment

The NCTC has developed test equipment and test platforms, including card socket life testers (for contact cards), mechanical strength testers (for contact cards), hot wire ignition testers, vertical flame testers, AC/DC load testers, plug test assemblies for the operating system of a smart IC card, COS test assemblies for a fiscal card, function assemblies for a fiscal cash register, testing fixtures for IC card development, testing fixtures for Sinopec gas cards, testing fixtures for RFIDs, testing fixtures for public health service   cards, testing fixtures for China Mobile SIM cards, testing fixtures for Unicom SIM cards, testing fixtures for the 2ed ID card, testing assemblies for the 2ed ID card reader, testing assemblies for contactless readers, and testing assemblies for digital televisions.

Major Customers

The NCTC provides inspection and quality assessment for the government, certificate organizations, and businesses. The major customers from government include AQSIQ, National Certification and Accreditation Administration Committee (NCAAC), and MIIT.

The major clients of NCTC in the certificate organizations include CQC, Chinese Energy Efficiency Labeling Management Center, China Environmental Labeling Certification Center, and CE Certification. Additionally, NCTC serves various testings for more than 30 major private enterprises, such as Lenovo (Beijing) Co., Ltd., Founder Technology Group Corporation, Tong Fang Co., Ltd., China Great Wall Computer Shenzhen Co., Ltd., and Langchao Electronic Information Industry Co., Ltd. Beijing Zunguan currently provides approximately 2000 electronic product test reports per year for these customers.

Many of the customers play dual roles in the NCTC: on one hand, the NCTC offers certification testing services for these customers; on the other hand, these customers provide guidelines and specifications on how these certification tests should be conducted. For example, Lenovo uses the NCTC to test their products and provides the NCTC with test criteria and specifications, some of which have apparently come from IBM.

Conclusion

China’s NCTC has been established and organized to promote national industrial electronic information scientific and technical development. The NCTC, through its own public documentation, is explicitly set up as a dual-use information technology industry support organization.

In accordance with the rules and regulations developed by the National Committee for Supervising Certification and Accreditation, the NCTC operates product quality certification and safety and EMC tests to provide both buyers and sellers with evidence for impartial assessment and assist the government in regulating marketing practice so as to promote trade and protect consumers’ legitimate rights and interests.

The NCTC provides national professional test services for products such as computers, computer peripherals, computer network equipment, fiscal cash registers, second generation identity card reading (verification) equipment, computer room equipment and engineering, printed circuit boards, electronic components, integrated network cabling, software, IC card and equipment, RFID and equipment, and computer energy savings.[1]  No overarching organization comparable to the NCTC is known to exist in the US or in any other major Western IT industrial state.

The NCTC is an integral component of the Chinese government policy-driven infrastructure for IT equipment design and testing, which has resulted in an increasingly innovative industry that has expanded China’s share of the global telecommunications and IT equipment market.

This expansion can be seen in the cases of Huawei, now the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, and ZTE, the world’ s fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer.

Through the oversight and assistance of the NCTC, Chinese-developed IT products will likely soon eclipse those of Western companies.

The dual-use structure of the AQSIQ and the NCTC will help to ensure that China’s IT engineers develop increasingly competitive and capable IT components for government, military, and consumer applications, thereby expanding China’s hard and soft power around the globe through advancing weapons systems and market dominance.

Unless Western policy makers and business executives understand the evolution, structure, and objectives of these organizations and establish domestic policy and infrastructure to compete effectively in the market place, as well as on IT applications, a future alarmist Congressional report may result in simply more political rhetoric while the western IT industry continues to cede market share and fall behind in soft and hard power.

The recently announced Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) “Vetting Commodity IT Software and Firmware” (VET) program ( DARPA-SN-13-07: VET – Vetting Commodity IT Software  and Firmware ) is a step in the right direction

(see https://www.fbo.gov/?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=55b80a80971c739699e410584819e767&tab=core&_cview=0).

DARPA plans to find “innovative, large-scale approaches to verifying the security and functionality of commodity IT devices.” The VET program will seek to demonstrate that it is technically feasible for the Department of Defense (DoD) to determine that the software and firmware shipped on commodity Information Technology (IT) devices is free of broad classes of backdoors and other hidden malicious functionality.

Supplemental References

[1] China Quality Net, 2003

http://www.cqn.com.cn/news/zgzlb/diqi/17054.html

[2] Examiner Data, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China, 2009

[3] Alumni list of Nanjing University

http://class.chinaren.com/school.do?sid=259473year=1975keyword

[4] Introduction of advisors in CETC 15th Institute, China Education Online, 2012

http://souky.eol.cn/HomePage/news/15/873.html

[5] Interview of Hongyuan Luo, Digital Community  Intelligent Residence, 2007

http://www.smartcn.cn/smart/rwzf/105745612.asp

[6] Interview of Hongyuan Luo, Guangming Web, 2004

http://www.gmw.cn/content/2004-09/08/content_95783.htm

[7] News from the NCTC website, 2012

http://www.nctc.org.cn/show.aspx?nid=554

[8] China Quality Net, 2003

http://www.cqn.com.cn/news/zgzlb/diqi/17054.html

[9] Examiner Data, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China, 2009

[10] Alumni list of Nanjing University

http://class.chinaren.com/school.do?sid=259473year=1975keyword

[11] Introduction of advisors in CETC 15th Institute, China Education Online, 2012

http://souky.eol.cn/HomePage/news/15/873.html

[12] Interview of Hongyuan Luo, Digital Community  Intelligent Residence, 2007

http://www.smartcn.cn/smart/rwzf/105745612.asp

[13] Interview of Hongyuan Luo, Guangming Web, 2004

http://www.gmw.cn/content/2004-09/08/content_95783.htm

[14] News from the NCTC website, 2012

http://www.nctc.org.cn/show.aspx?nid=554

[15] A write up for the effect of electromagnetic waves on human beings, Q Online, 2011

http://www.qzaixian.com/kt/mingjia/201104/3253.shtml

About the Authors:

Dr. Xin Song, the primary Chinese linguist for this research, is a hydrogeologist and environmental engineer. Dr. Song graduated holds a Master degree in Environmental Science from Tsinghua University, Beijing and a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park.

Leonard Zuga is an analyst of emerging technologies, technology transfer, and industrial base development in the context of the global political economy.

Professor Michael Pecht is the founder and Director of CALCE (Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering) at the University of Maryland, which is funded by over 150 of the world’s leading electronics companies at more than US$6M/year. The CALCE Center received the NSF Innovation Award in 2009.

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[1] http://www.nctc.org.cn/english/about%20us.htm, accessed November 25, 2012.

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