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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 17:34, December 22, 2005
Top statistician on China's economic figures after national census
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The People's Daily held an interview with Li Deshui, head of China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on China's revised GDP (gross domestic product) of the year 2004 after the country's first nationwide economic survey.

What do the changed economic aggregates tell us?

Reporter: Perhaps what strikes people most in the findings of the economic census is the changes of China's GDP and its makeup. Particularly, with reference to the resources obtained through the economic survey, 2.3 trillion yuan has been added into China's GDP in 2004, an increase of 16.8 percent. This change has aroused great attention both at home and abroad. What is your comment on such a revision?

Li Deshui: Economic survey cannot create GDP but only mirror the reality more accurately. As stipulated in the Statistics Law of the People's Republic of China, economic investigations should be based on periodic surveys. In essence, the statistics that indicate the level of socio-economic development has been improved instead that the economy and society have changed themselves.

The great amount of manpower, capital and materials involved in the economic survey this time, the breadth and depth of the investigation itself are all unprecedented in China's history and incomparable for regular statistics. The measurement of the national economy in this way, based on the ample and authentic information acquired through the economic survey should certainly be more comprehensive, accurate and reliable than the regular.

Are China's world rankings changed?

Reporter: Based on the new findings, what differences will be made to China's economic rankings in the world?

Li Deshui: According to relevant information from "World Economic Outlook" issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), by the average exchange rate of 8.277 yuan against one US dollar, China's 2004 GDP should be raised to 1.9317 trillion US dollars from the 1.6537 trillion US dollars. And its share in the world's total up from 3.8 percent to 4.4 percent. China's ranking accordingly rises from the original seventh place to the sixth, outracing Italy and following the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain and France.

With the same IMF standards, Italy's 2004 GDP is 1.6801 trillion US dollars; France, 2.0463 trillion US dollars; Britain, 2.1330 trillion US dollars; Germany, 2.7547 trillion US dollars; Japan, 4.6712 trillion US dollars and the United States 11.7343 trillion US dollars. China's GDP, in terms of US dollars, had exceeded that of Italy as early as in 2000 and 2002, ranking the sixth place in the world. From 2003 to 2004, Italy again surpassed China due to the appreciation of euro against US dollar.

Reporter: With the adjustment of GDP, how is China's per capita ranking changed?

Li No big change. According to the IMF standard, last year after initial calculation, China's per capita GDP is 1, 276 US dollars, ranking the 112th place in the world. The figure, after adjustment, is 1,490 US dollars, at the 107th place, exceeding Vanuatu, Ukraine, Congo, Syria and Angola. If by another standard, which is set by the World Bank and based on the three-year average foreign exchange rate, China's 2004 capita GDP rises from the 132nd to 129th, only outdoing Egypt, Vanuatu and Turkmenistan. Neither method will change the fact that China per capita GDP is only one fifth of the world average.

Despite a small growth in GDP, China is still the biggest developing country. People should bear in mind that there are still 100 million people leading a rather poor life and should see the economic growth is achieved at the cost of rather high consumption of energy and other resources. According to the revised figures, China only produced 4.4 percent of the world's total GDP in 2004, yet the crude oil it devoured accounted for 7.4 percent of the world's total; coal, 31 percent; iron ore, 30 percent; rolled steel, 27 percent; alumina, 25 percent, and cement, 40 percent.

How to evaluate the authenticity of the statistics from the economic survey?

Reporter: It was widely agreed that China's services industry were underestimated in the previous statistics. The economic survey made up with it but the revised part is still surprisingly big.

Li: The under-coverage of the tertiary industry is a major problem found out in the economic survey, which is not surprising to anyone. As I mentioned at the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) this year, apart from an incomplete statistical system, it should be admitted that the NBS has overlooked some aspects in this regard. The results of the survey has verified such estimations. We have discovered the reasons for the omission and the solution as well therefore we are confident in the future work.

Reporter: Just like doubts in the past, there are people questioning the reliability of the statistics that result from the economic survey.

Li: People should try to judge figures and statistical work objectively. Figures are a mirror of socio-economic development but not a simple calculation of "one plus one equals two." No country in the world can have 100-percent accurate statistics but they are always revising. In the past, our statistics basically indicated the overall trend of China's economy. However, we have shortcomings in our work and have been trying to improve the system. We are deeply aware of the defects of regular statistics and that is why we need economic census for accurate figures. The statistics obtained from the economic survey are definitely more accurate than the regular ones, but on a comparative basis. However, no other department can afford to spend so great efforts in such a large-scale economic survey so the figures from the concluded survey are the most authoritative and basically reliable.

"Seeking truth and reflecting reality" is for all time the fundamental principle and sacred mission of statistical departments. All that we have done in the economic survey is a process of pursuit for such a goal. It must take some time for an old system to bow out and for a new one to be established and improved. It is a historical process. China is progressing step by step in its statistics system and gradually incorporating international practice. Now finally we see tangible progress. The system is capable of manifesting more truly and comprehensively the achievements China have made through reform and opening up, and the modernization drive, as well as its overall strength. It is a good thing.

Background: China's first nationwide economic survey

According to the NBS, the reference time for the census was Dec. 31, 2004, and the flow data covered the whole year of 2004. The economic census covered all legal person units, establishments and self-employed individuals who were engage in the secondary and tertiary industries within the territory of China.

The survey lasted two years, mobilizing 13 million people with an input of nearly two billion yuan.

The launch of the first economic census is the result of major adjustments in the nation's arrangement of census. According to the original plan, China should have conducted the second national survey on the tertiary industry in 2003. However, due to the SARS outbreak that year, the services sector was severely affected therefore a census as planned cannot give a true picture of China's tertiary industry. Based on the problems found in the original census system and the situation at that time, in July 2003, the NBS, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Finance conducted research and reported to the State Council. As approved by the State Council, China decided to make major adjustments in the items and schedules of the survey. So the first national economic census was launched in the year of 2004 .

Currently, the programs for national census include: population census, once per ten years in the years numbered with "0" in the end; agricultural census, once every ten years in those numbered with "6" in the end; an integrated census on the tertiary industry, industry and basic units, as well as the on construction industry, the first economic census due in 2004; economic census after the first one, twice every ten years, in those years numbered with "3" and "8" in the end.

By People's Daily Online

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