China's GDP Numbers Don't Add Up
Statistics from China can be unreliable. And the country's GDP—the primary measure of its economic health—is no exception.
The latest set of first-half GDP numbers provided by the provinces are 10 percent higher than central the government's national figure.
In mid-July, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics announced that China's GDP for the first half of 2009 was 14 trillion yuan—that’s about 2 trillion US dollars. But if you add up the numbers that each Chinese province released individually, you get a completely different total GDP: 15.4 trillion yuan.
Hu Xingdou is an economist and professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. He says the high provincial numbers may reflect a political system that rewards high growth figures, but almost never punishes officials for falsifying data.
He told Voice of America that, "There is no penalty for reporting false information under the current system. The policy of pursuing GDP growth at all costs is bound to encourage local officials at all levels to produce false GDP figures."
But the discrepancy calls both numbers into question, because national figures should theoretically match regional data. It’s not clear why the CCP used a different number for the national GDP—or how they came up with that number.
The state-run China Daily, the Communist Party’s English-language mouthpiece, took an online poll of 3,000 people. They reported that 91 percent of them "would take government data with a pinch of salt."