Dr. Iñaki Heras-Saizarbitoria, a researcher with the Universidad del País Vasco in the Basque Country, has completed a study on the validity of ISO 9001 certificates worldwide, and has determined that the bulk of certificates coming from China are not to be trusted.

Dr. Heras-Saizarbitoria has concluded that, “the reliability of Chinese certificates is very low,” and that a great number of ISO 9001 certificates coming from China are the product of “photoshopped” forgeries, or certificates purchased from certification bodies who did not perform actual audits.

From our point of view, the problem is pretty widespread, even though it is true that in some countries it is particularly serious, as in China or Pakistan, for example. But in other countries, such as Russia or the United States, cases have also been spotted.

The researchers provided a number of possible solutions, including improving CB reporting of valid certificates by maintaining up-to-date registries on CB company websites. Led by BSI, the world’s certification bodies previously pushed back on this requirement, claiming such “public registries” allowed competitors to “poach” their clients, and successfully had the requirement for such registries removed from the latest set of accreditation rules in ISO 17021-1.

The study concluded that companies should “not trust certificates of this type coming from China. The problems could be very serious if some item that the company uses in one of its products fails to comply with the proper specifications“.

China is aware of the problem, but has done little to curb it. Instead, China has successfully implemented an influence campaign in the ISO certification world, successfully landing representatives of Chinese companies in key positions, including as the President of ISO itself, and the International Accreditation Forum, which oversees the world’s certification scheme. China has also taken the leadership of UNIDO, which recently signed agreements with the IAF.

Recently it was reported that the current Deputy Secretary-General of ISO, Mr. Nicolas Fleury, received an “honorary professor” credential at a Chinese university during the same trip in which ISO endorsed a building project at the university.

China has used its cash power to host multiple official ISO events in that country, including ISO plenaries and TC 176 meetings where the ISO 9001 standard is drafted. China hosted ISO’s first session on artificial intelligence (AI) in Beijing in 2018.

The American Society for Quality has adopted a pro-China stance, with senior officials giving interviews to China state-run media which criticize US policy while promoting the transfer of quality techniques to China. ASQ disputes the well-known problem of China’s intellectual property piracy, and has published no articles on the spate of fake ISO certificates coming from that country. ASQ operates a daughter company, ASQ China LLC, which has lost over $470,000 dollars since 2014. ASQ recently held its first “China Quality Summit” in that country, facilitating the knowledge transfer of US trade techniques to China.