China’s vast manufacturing machine has moved into overdrive to supply the country and the world with masks, respirators and other equipment to fight the global coronavirus pandemic. Chinese-made masks have been part of aid packages sent to Europe, developing countries and the United States, as China has tried to improve its public image following a disastrous attempt to play down its virus-related crisis in January.
But even as it encourages production, the Chinese government has also had to step up enforcement efforts to stop defective and uncertified products. That presents a challenge to officials who have to ensure that quality standards are met even as they push factories to make what the world needs.
One man made fake Honeywell N95 respirators at a makeshift factory on a farm. Pharmacies sold ineffective knockoffs of a Chinese version of Clorox. In one Chinese province, the authorities seized more than seven million masks that were substandard, mislabeled or counterfeited.
“Every time when something major happens in society like this virus outbreak, there is a lot of demand and different kinds of companies try to get in,” said Cody Zhang, the chief executive of a start-up seeking certification for its own products, including a disinfecting robot. “It becomes hard at the beginning to figure out which ones are good and which ones are bad.”