Considering the veracity of Chinese GDP – Christopher Balding

One of my favourite sites for making sense of what is, and isn’t, going on in China is Balding’s World, written by Christopher Balding, a professor of economics of Peking University.

He has had a succession of useful posts over the last few weeks, and here is the link to his piece on yesterday’s somewhat implausible GDP data.  The summary of Balding’s take is captured in his title.  As he notes, the problems with Chinese data have been deep-seated, extensive, and long-running.  In conclusion he tellingly observes:

Only last month, an initiative was announced to improve labor market data as the official unemployment rate has been nearly unchanged for more than a decade.  If Chinese leaders are telling the world how poor the statistical agencies in China are, imagine the reality.

Wouldn’t it be preferable if these issues were getting serious treatment in the media rather than the hyper-ventilation about the gyrations of the Chinese stock markets? When stock prices rise 100% in less than a year, in an economy that appears to have been slowing sharply, sharp falls are hardly a surprise. And they mean no more for economic performance than falls in stock prices in the US in 1929 did – while media continue to run a cheap, incorrect, line that a collapse in share prices somehow caused the great depression. Stock prices move for a reason, and it is much more useful to try and get behind what is going on in the underlying economies than to focus too much on share prices themselves. That was true in New Zealand around 1987, and is probably true of China today.

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