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China’s GDP Growth Could Be as Low as 4.3%, Top Economist Says

2 minute read

Official data last week showing that China’s economy is growing at its slowest rate in a quarter of a century has investors worldwide concerned.

But one Chinese economist reckons the figures provided by the country’s National Statistics Bureau — which have long been treated with some suspicion — could be inflated by almost 3 percentage points, the Wall Street Journal reports. That would make the outlook even gloomier.

Xu Dianqing, an author of several books on China’s economy and economics professor at Beijing Normal University and the University of Western Ontario in Canada, has been sifting through data on the country’s manufacturing sector, which accounts for some 40.5% of the world’s second largest economy.

The sector officially grew by 6% during 2015, but Xu believes that number could be wrong “no matter how the number is counted,” the Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying. Monthly figures released by the government that include the output of thermal power stations and factories making railway freight, iron ore, plate glass and steel suggest that many industries contracted significantly, according to Xu.

Xu argues that China’s overall GDP growth — barring any other gaps in the official data — was in fact between 4.3% and 5.2% in 2015, compared with the official year-on-year growth rate of 6.9%.

After the release of the latest data, the National Statistics Bureau was quick to head off any suggestion that the the growth figures might be overoptimistic, with an official giving a “warning that the use of unofficial methods and incomplete data fail to give a complete picture.”

In a possibly unrelated — but still intriguing — twist, the head of the National Statistics Bureau, Wang Baoan, is now being investigated for a “severe disciplinary violation,” Chinese state media said Tuesday, using the Communist Party terminology normally used to refer to corruption probes.

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Write to Simon Lewis at simon_daniel.lewis@timeasia.com