Quality stressed for China’s economic development

By WEI SIYU / 02-23-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

A worker works at a manufacturing plant in Zaozhuang, Shandong Province. Photo: CFP

Scholars underscored the importance of boosting China’s strength in product quality to promoting high-quality development, following a recent outline on improving the overall quality of the country’s economy.

Jointly issued by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Feb. 6, the outline sets goals for greater progress in brand-building, constructing more modern and effective quality infrastructure, and fine-tuning the country’s quality management system by 2025. By 2035, China will have formed a more solid foundation and developed an advanced culture for quality development, and its comprehensive strength in terms of quality and brands will reach a higher level, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Status quo

China has become the world’s largest exporter, with the quality of its products and services constantly rising. Meanwhile, the country’s institutional and policy environment for quality enhancement keeps improving, and product safety and responsibility legislative systems are maturing. This has facilitated continuous improvement in service, certification, and measurement standard systems of craftsmanship and technology in China.

However, China still lags behind manufacturing powers around the world in terms of product competitiveness and added value. Liu Yong, a member of the Expert Committee for Telecommunication Economy at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), said that in recent years, ordinary daily consumables account for more than 60% of Chinese consumers’ overseas consumption, which shows that the role of China’s quality and efficiency in enhancing exports and promoting economic growth has yet to be leveraged. 

When it comes to brand influence, China is still far from a powerhouse, with a small number of top brands in the world, and inadequate premium brand capabilities, Liu said, adding that insufficient brand influence has obviously restricted China’s pace of building its strength in manufacturing.

Essential role of quality 

Generally speaking, a manufacturing powerhouse with quality products refers to a country that has corporate products with obvious characteristics or advantages of outstanding performance and high quality, and is able to benchmark or even surpass the level of leading products in related international fields. In economic theory, the contribution rates of traditional production factors such as land, capital, and labor to economic development will decrease with time, while innovative factors like technology, knowledge, management, and quality will progressively contribute more. 

Compared to technology, knowledge, and other factors of production, the factor of quality is more universal and realistic, said Cheng Hong, director of the Institute of Quality Development Strategy at Wuhan University. 

Technology is an innovative factor not available to every enterprise, and the role of education and talent will only show in the long term, Cheng continued. In comparison, even if enterprises and their employees do not own or master advanced technologies, they can produce general and mature products through stricter quality control to make more profits. As such, quality is a comprehensive reflection of various input factors in economic development. 

Focusing on the fundamental factor of quality can ensure national development and sustained economic growth, Cheng emphasized. 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has attached great importance to work concerned with quality enhancement, and “quality” has become a key word in the central economic work conference and the government work report. Under the “Made in China 2025” strategy, a blueprint for upgrading the country’s manufacturing sector jointly launched by the MIIT and other departments, “quality first” has been incorporated into the basic policy, and boosting China’s strength in product quality has been made a national strategy. 

He Jun, a research fellow from the Institute of Industrial Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that boosting strength in product quality is a significant part of the cause of building China into a great modern socialist country [in all respects]. The strategy is vital to improving people’s sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security, and also an inevitable requirement and an important way for China to achieve high-quality development.

In addition, boosting China’s strength in product quality is a key guarantee to promote the innovative development of enterprises and a necessary choice to enhance the international competitiveness of industries and the country’s status in global value chains (GVCs). Liu said that the mastery of independent technologies and brands has become a decisive factor in identifying whether an enterprise’s operations are autonomous. To elevate China’s status in GVCs to a technology-, information-, and management-intensive link with high added value, it is essential to foster a batch of independent, advantageous enterprises with considerable market influence and control power, Liu added.