How Big Is China’s Economy?

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“Lies, damn lies, and statistics”, or so the saying goes. And now there is another example of figurers being questioned.

China has a (very) big economy – in case anyone missed it overtaking Germany last year – but there is some debate, as reported by People’s Daily:

    “China’s GDP may be 40 percent smaller than previously estimated, according to a World Bank report, but the bank’s president says the statistics used in the finding are subject to further adjustment.

    The report….examines prices in 146 countries to establish more accurate rankings of economic might, poverty and wealth. Using the purchasing power parity method, which eliminates the effect of exchange rates, the report found that China’s GDP is 40 percent smaller than originally thought.

    The finding incorporated new price data gathered with the Asian Development Bank and the Chinese government in 12 urban areas in China.

    But World Bank president Robert Zoellick said at a news conference in Beijing yesterday that the numbers are not complete because they do not capture rural prices.

    “I suspect as the price data for all of China is taken into account, you probably see further adjustment of this price survey,” Zoellick said.

    “This is an evolving process of building a statistical base in China and other developing countries,” he said, adding that the World Bank is not drawing any policy conclusions based on the report.

    During the conference, Zoellick also said China could play greater role in boosting the growth of developing regions, such as Africa.

    “China and the World Bank could share expertise in development and work with partners to create opportunities and hope in more countries.”

    Zoellick welcomed the nation’s first contribution to the International Development Association (IDA), the bank’s arm that provides grants and interest-free loans to the world’s poorest countries.

    China, which has received 9.9 billion from IDA since 1981, has made a “modest but significant” step in contributing to the record $41 billion IDA raised last week. But the amount was not disclosed.

    “It’s a significant breakthrough to have China become a contributor,” Zeollick said. “It signals China’s intention to help shape the international aid architecture through multinational channels.”

    According to Zeollick, the World Bank is now discussing the possibility of cooperating with Chinese banks and authorities in Africa, such as the Export-Import Bank of China and the Ministry and Commerce.

So it seems to be a case of big – or very big. Statistics can be tricky things, and should be taken with s pinch of salt.

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