What are mainland China’s most up to date animal testing policies? And why you should boycott brands who choose to sell their products there. In this article we will look at mainland China’s current animal testing laws, and investigate why cosmetic brands who sell in mainland China are not cruelty-free.
Firstly, let’s clarify exactly what we mean by mainland China. This refers to China as the People’s Republic of China, or continental China. The territories which are excluded are:
- Hong Kong
All of these territories are not under the rule of the People’s Republic of China, and therefore do not enforce their strict animal testing laws. They are nations within a nation, having their own currency, culture, flag, and legal systems.
China's Cosmetics Industry
China’s cosmetics industry is booming. In 2018, retail sales reached a dizzying height of almost 37 billion US dollars. You can see why foreign brands are leaping at the chance of a slice of the action, the Chinese cosmetics market is currently dominated in large by foreign brands. Brands such as Maybelline, Dior and Lancome. But what the consumers of these brands should remember is, that if a brand decides to sell on the ground in retail stores around China. They are choosing to partake in animal testing, and turn their back on any chance and being a cruelty-free brand.
What Happens When Foreign Companies Export Cosmetics To Sell In Mainland China?
1) Ordinary Cosmetics:
- Skin care
- Hair care
- Nail care
2) Special-Use Cosmetics:
- Hair growth products
- Hair dye
- Hair perm
- Hair removal
- Deodorizing products
- Spot removal
- Sun block
- Skin whitening products
- Skin pigmentation reduction products
When a foreign cosmetics company wants to gain a foothold in the mainland China cosmetics market they must go through a lengthy process in order to get their products approved. This process does include animal testing.
Does 'Made in China' Make A Product Not Cruelty-Free?
No, just because a cosmetic is made in China, does not mean that that product has been tested on animals.
The Chinese animal testing laws are only for cosmetics which are sold in mainland China. If the product is just made in China and not sold there then it does not have to comply with mandatory animal testing regulations.
The only reason a product must abide by the Chinese animal testing laws is if it is a foreign cosmetic brands finished product being exported by that company into mainland China to be sold to Chinese consumers in retail stores. Then that brand must have their products filled, registered and approved by the SFDA. They must go through the above process that I laid out.
Can Foreign Cosmetic Companies Sell In China & Remain Cruelty-Free?
The simple answer is yes (kind of), but it’s complicated.
There are two possible ways that a foreign brand can sell their products to Chinese consumers and still remain cruelty-free:
1. Local Manufacturing:
a. Own Manufacturing
To avoid animal testing laws a company can instead set up their own local manufacturing factory to make and sell their products to Chinese consumers. If they use ingredients which are already approved by the SFDA then they can avoid all animal testing requirements for their cosmetic products. This is obviously a huge investment and takes a long time, so not a lot of companies opt for this to remain cruelty-free.
b. Private Label
Cosmetics, along with many other sectors, have used OEM contracts to localize production in China.
An OEM contract is when a company has a product researched, designed, developed and manufactured by a Chinese company in China. Then all they do is put their brand name and logo on the finished product. This method ensures they can avoid animal testing laws while launching a new product line in China.
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. Basically a foreign cosmetics company can team up with a local Chinese manufacturing facility. They then can have that facility produce their product. Or they can simply have that Chinese bottle their products in China. Because once the crucial final bottling of the product is done by a local manufacturer, then the foreign brands products are exempt from animal testing.
This method is more popular than setting up their own manufacturing facility as it is much quicker and costs less.
This method is also more popular than private labeling through an OEM contract, as co-manufacturing ensures that their brand and formulas are protected. Also it ensures that the foreign brand can control the quality of the product too, as they will have control over manufacturing it.
2. Cross Border E-Commerce (CBEC) Platforms
Cross border E-commerce platforms are now one of the top sales channels for cosmetics in mainland China. This allows for companies to sell to mainland Chinese consumers, while still avoiding animal testing laws by keeping their production outside of mainland China.
All foreign cosmetics shipped in through CBEC platforms are then exempt from any filing or registration requirements. Because these products ordered by Chinese consumers are considered personal use by the Chinese authorities. It is considered the same as someone returning home to Beijing from London with newly bought cosmetics in their luggage.
However, I must warn all consumers that there is no clear ban on animal testing for imported goods for personal use through CBEC platforms. Though there has been no reports of animal testing ever taking place on personal use imported goods, it still cannot be ruled out 100% due to no explicit ban.
Three Reasons Why Mainland China Is Not Going To End Animal Testing Laws Anytime Soon
- The Chinese authorities earn huge amounts of money from foreign brands paying for licenses with the SFDA when they want to enter the Chinese cosmetics market. Also these SFDA labs employ huge numbers of lab technicians, which means jobs for lots of Chinese workers.
- Changing testing is both costly and time consuming. Both establishing new non-animal methods, getting them approved and then training all the technicians to use these methods is a huge undertaking.
- Compared to other societies in other nations, there is a clear lack of consumer awareness in mainland China when it comes to animal welfare. This brings about less pressure being put on the Chinese government by the people to bring in anti-animal cruelty laws.