China needs to manage quality of exported medical supplies

By Song Wei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/31 21:38:40

China needs to manage quality of exported supplies


Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

The Netherlands heath authorities have reportedly recalled 600,000 substandard masks imported from China. Soon after, Spain claimed coronavirus test kits purchased from China were defective. The two incidents were highly politicized by some media, which claimed China is using the pandemic as an opportunity to engage in mask diplomacy while countries are in need.

Such a view not only distorts China's contributions to global coronavirus containment, but could also dent the mutual trust built in global public health governance and deal a blow to international cooperation on joint virus control. 

Amid the global health emergency, the exports and donations of such a large quantity of medical supplies has put great pressure on the Chinese government and companies. However, the Chinese government still needs to enhance domestic supervision and coordination with other countries. 

China takes up more than half of mask production capacity globally. Many countries are in short supply of masks amid the virus spread. It has been suggested that foreign governments should pay attention to the list of qualified suppliers released by Chinese official agencies as those companies are certified and the quality of their products has been guaranteed. Chinese customs also need to strengthen inspection and quarantine with regard to medical supplies. China should try to keep any defective medical supplies within the country, ensuring all materials sent to the frontline are of high quality. No matter whether materials are sold domestically or internationally, substandard medical supplies should not be allowed to enter the market. Producers of such medical supplies should be punished according to the law.

The Chinese government should also actively communicate with the EU regarding product standards, establishing a green channel for medical supplies. Countries have different standards for medical products. When other countries place urgent orders, some Chinese companies shift production lines, rushing into production without effective communication with buyers. Therefore, it is inevitable that some products will fail to meet buyers' standards. International medical standards are often set by developed countries and those standards change frequently. That has increased market risks for medical supply producers.

Finally, the Chinese government could consider helping Europe to build medical supplies production lines to increase local output. Shortages of medical supplies in the West are the result of "deindustrialization" policies that Western countries have been implementing for decades. Due to deindustrialization, manufacturing industries in many Western countries have stalled and workers have moved to services industries. The coronavirus is expected to have a global impact lasting months. Expanding local production could solve the medical supply shortages in European countries.

Facing the pandemic, the Chinese government will encourage domestic firms to take urgent orders from overseas and manufacture at full steam while guaranteeing quality and supporting global virus containment. China will do its best to provide emergency supplies for countries hit by the virus and share its experience, advancing global public heath governance. 

The author is an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce.

Newspaper headline: China needs to manage quality of exported supplies


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