This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is China Really the World's Second Largest Economy?

WikiLeaks has not, in truth, provided very many secret cables relating to population or environmental issues. But, one very interesting tidbit has emerged, namely that the Chinese themselves are not very confident in the gross domestic product (GDP) figures that they put out for the consumption of the rest of the world:

China's GDP figures are "man-made" and therefore unreliable, the man who is expected to be the country's next head of government said in 2007, according to U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
Li Keqiang, head of the Communist Party in northeastern Liaoning province at the time, was unusually candid in his assessment of local economic data at a dinner with then-U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt, according to a confidential memo sent after the meeting and published on the WikiLeaks website.
Chinese economic numbers, especially at the provincial level and lower, have long been viewed with suspicion by analysts.
"That China's GDP is not reliable, especially for local GDP, that is nothing new," said an economist with a foreign bank who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussing top national leaders.
This does not mean, of course, that the Chinese economy is not large. Indeed, even if we knew the correct numbers, it might well be that China is clearly the world's second largest economy. But, we also don't know for sure what the birth rate is in China, either. There is universal agreement that fertility in China is well below replacement level, but there is not agreement on precisely what the level is, because of concerns over data quality as well as the belief that some children may be hidden from official counts. Thus, key aspects of the world's largest population continue to remain hidden from view.

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