An undercover investigation by state media has found that many industries bribe officials to obtain quality-control certification.
The practice of officially certifying a company's products as meeting quality standards had been compromised by industries resorting to bribery, Xinhua reported, comparing the bogus ISO9000 certificates to "beauty marks".
In one case, a Beijing-based machinery firm obtained the national quality-control certification in less than a month - the process usually lasts at least nine months - with the help of an agent.
The firm, in which a Xinhua reporter worked undercover for several months, paid "certification consultancy" Dongfang Xinzhan 6,500 yuan (HK$8,190) for its service.
The agent from Dongfang Xinzhan, which claims to have connections with a government-authorised certification company, said the minimum cost for such certification according to regulations was 12,000 yuan.
On the agent's advice, the company gave cash gifts to the two examiners sent by the certification company, who completed their assessment in a day and a half, instead of the usual three days.
The certification consultancy gave the machinery firm two training classes on quality control for garments - an industry completely unrelated to the firm's products.
It also told the firm to lie to the quality-control examiners that many of its technicians had taken leave, to cover up the firm's real number of staff that was fewer than standards required.
ISO certification could be acquired "as long as you give money", an agent from another consultancy was quoted as saying.
This corrupt practice was rampant also within the toy manufacturing and farm-produce sectors, Xinhua said.
"Usually, two people from the Certification Centre of the Light Industry Council would come to check up [on our standards]. We usually give each of them a cash gift of 1,000 to 1,200 yuan," a manager of a Shantou toy factory was quoted as saying.
"This has been an unwritten rule for years. Without the money, you can expect some 'small obstacles'."
One Shanghai-based consultant guaranteed organic-food certification for his clients.
"I am familiar with all the examiners at the certification authority that we cooperate with. We will try to help you pass [the assessment]," he said. "All you need to do is give them a good reception."
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, the top department overseeing certification, did not respond to an interview request by the South China Morning Post.
Edward Guo, formerly responsible for applying for certification at a major pesticide manufacturer in Zhejiang , told the Post that ISO certification was easy to obtain as long as one was willing to spend the money.
"Some certification companies would directly ask applicants for a price," he said, adding that, in his experience, no government supervisor had ever investigated or intervened.