The Chinese economy: Whether to believe China's GDP figures

by / Wednesday, 15 July 2015 / Published in Economy

IT ALL seems a little too perfect to be true. The Chinese government set a growth target of “about 7%” this year. And for a second consecutive quarter, despite ample evidence of stress in its industrial sector, it managed to hit that right on its head. In the three months from April to June, the economy expanded 7% compared with the same period a year earlier. Cue the chorus of scepticism: Chinese data just cannot be trusted, goes the usual refrain. Yes and no. There is a difference between smoothing data and totally fabricating it. Evidence suggests that China is guilty of the former (the lesser charge) but not the latter (the more serious allegation).China has a history of ironing out the ruffles in its growth figures. No less an authority than Li Keqiang, now the premier, once said that local GDP data were "man-made and therefore unreliable". The most notorious case of manipulation came in 1998 in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Many Asian countries suffered recessions but China claimed to grow by a hefty 7.8% that year. Looking at other indicators, many economists concluded that growth was in fact closer to 5%. The manipulations can occasionally work in the opposite direction. In the early 2000s, when China reported growth of 8-9%, some reckoned that it really expanded by closer to 10%. Why would China understate its growth? One possibility is that …<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>
Source: The Economy