China’s central government will begin making its own calculations of provincial GDP after three provinces were found to have inflated their numbers earlier this year.
The decision was made during a June 26 meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform, a powerful Party group tasked with steering economic reform and led by Chinese President Xi Jinping, state news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday. The group also issued a document during its meeting that laid out how people responsible for incorrect statistics should be punished, but the report did not elaborate.
China began using GDP to measure the size of its economy in 1985 and made provinces responsible for calculating their individual contributions to the country’s overall GDP. According a commentary in The Beijing News, the system resulted in a situation where figures are inflated for the sake of advancing political careers — or as the author put it: “Officials produce the numbers, and the numbers produce officials.”
On Jan. 17 Chen Qiufa, the governor of northeastern China’s Liaoning province, admitted that the province had fabricated its GDP figures from 2011 to 2014. An announcement from the the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection — the Party’s anti-corruption watchdog — on June 12 revealed that Jilin province, also in the country’s northeast, and the northern autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, had also inflated their GDP figures, though no time frame for this was given.
An investigation by a China National Radio journalist found that in 2016, combined provincial GDP calculations exceeded the national figure from the central statistics bureau by 2.76 trillion yuan ($406 billion). China’s GDP that year was 74.41 trillion yuan.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: Bikes are parked at a construction site in front of a poster for the central business district in Beijing, Oct. 19, 2016. Jason Lee/Reteurs/VCG)