ISO9001 and China: How far can you trust it?

In any Western country, an ISO 9001 certificate gives a certain level of comfort when commencing a business relationship with a new company. Whilst it doesn't necessarily mean the product or service will definitely be of superior quality, it does provide a higher level of assurance that will more than likely be the case and especially that there will be a consistency of quality, trending upwards over a definite timeframe. And you can be pretty sure that the certificate was earned and painstakingly verified by an accredited certification body such as BSA, SGS, SAI Global or Bureau Veritas.

But in China, as I discovered a while back...things work differently. Just about any factory manager is able to show you an ISO certificate that is for all intents and purposes legitimate. These are not just pretty papers that came out of a 5400 dpi printer, but fully valid ISO certificates that are registered on the databases of organizations accredited to verify ISO 9001 compliance. But all that they verify is that there is some manager at one of these bodies that likes to supplement their income. I made the initial mistake of only verifying an ISO9001 certificate as being properly registered - it was. But that was not enough. The certificate was nothing but lipstick on one damn ugly pig of a company...

Buyer beware: the ISO 9001 certificate means nothing in China. If you are seriously considering setting up a business relationship with a Chinese partner, you will have to do the verification yourself.