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Ending China's worship of almighty GDP

By Fu Man (PLA Daily)

16:59, August 16, 2011

Edited and Translated by People's Daily Online

The data on the gross domestic product of municipalities, provinces and autonomous regions in the first half recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China has aroused heated public discussions mainly on two factors. First, the combined data of the GDP respectively posted by 31 municipalities, provinces and autonomous regions is over 2 trillion yuan higher than the GDP data released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Second, the first-half GDP growth rates released by 29 regions except Beijing and Shanghai are higher than about 10 percent of the national GDP growth rate calculated by the central statistical department.

It is not the first time in recent years to see the "considerable difference" between the GDP data released by the central and local statistical departments. Different ranges of statistics and repeated calculations are major reasons behind the difference. However, the essential reason behind the difference lies in that some local governments have yet to remove the constraint of the "cult" of GDP and have still just interpreted economic development as higher GDP.

Many experts, scholars and government officials at home and abroad know that GDP is just an indicator of the growth and size of the economy and cannot measure the quality of economic growth. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences recently published the "China's Scientific Development Report 2011," including a GDP quality ranking of Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

Niu Wenyuan, lead author of the report and a consultant to the State Council, stressed that the key to a scientific understanding of GDP lies in the pursuit of “high quality GDP” that features rationality and high efficiency, less use of resources, less harm to the environment and an overall reduction in the cost of natural resources, production and society.

Recently published economic data have shown mixed results. The bright side is that although the GDP of most provincial-level regions grew faster than the national average in the first half of the year, the average GDP growth rate of these regions, except Guizhou, Xinjiang and Tibet, dropped 1.9 percentage points from the same period of last year. This showed local governments' effective efforts to restructure the economy.

According to the 2011 report on China's scientific development, Tianjin ranked first in China in the growth rate of GDP and fourth in the quality of GDP. Furthermore, the income of urban and rural residents in 29 of the country's provincial-level regions grew more than 10 percent in the first half of the year. Meanwhile, the income of urban and rural residents in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities grew faster than the CPI, meaning that local governments had paid greater attention to promoting the people's living standards.

The most worrisome thing is that, according to the Early Warning List of All Provinces' Situations in Achieving their Energy-Saving Goals in the First Half of 2011 issued by the National Development and Reform Commission at the end of July, the early warning ratings of eight regions, including Inner Mongolia, were in the first class for achieving their energy-saving goals, meaning the energy-saving situations of these regions were "extremely serious."

Compared to the first quarter, the early warning ratings of five regions were upgraded, meaning their energy-saving situations had become even worse. And only one region's early warning rating was downgraded. All of these indicate that the economic growths of many places still depend on the extensive, high energy-consuming and high pollution development mode, and it will be quite hard and challenging to realize the environmental protection goal of the 12th Five-Year Plan.

Saying goodbye to the GDP worship is an important start for changing the development idea. Local governments should be responsible for not only GDP growth but also the ecological environment, public service and people's livelihoods. While maintaining sustainable and steady economic growth, governments of every level should also change the government from the previous production and construction type into a public service type, greatly increase practical incomes of residents and improve residents' qualities of life. It should be their primary task.


Leave your comment2 comments

  1. Name

Guest at 2011-08-17206.248.255.*
Quality of life...thanks for refrigs and AC in rural areas.
max at 2011-08-16137.56.163.*
Yea, government officials should learn to be multi-dimensional, not one-dimensional.

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