Measuring Progress in Growth-Obsessed China

Lower growth rates can actually be a sign of progress in today’s China.

Phillip Orchard |July 30, 2018

Last fall, at the epochal 19th Party Congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping called out China’s obsession with the pace of economic growth. It seems that some in the country have taken notice. On Sunday, 28 of China’s 31 province-level administrative divisions (including autonomous regions and large cities that answer solely to Beijing) released economic figures for the first half of the year. Nearly half of them posted growth rates equal to or lower than the national average, released two weeks ago, of 6.8 percent. That this can be read as progress in a country obsessed with sustaining robust growth amid an array of mounting economic pressures may seem counterintuitive. But it speaks to several deep-rooted problems that have long bedeviled central governments in China.

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One is the dubious nature of official growth numbers routinely posted in China. In recent years, for example, it’s become common practice for all 31 provinces to post growth figures higher t

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