December 7th, 2010
12:31 PM GMT
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Beijing (CNN) – Every month, investors, analysts, economists, and journalists pore over China's latest batch of economic data. We spend hours sifting through official numbers hoping to get a better gauge of China's economic future. Maybe we'd be better off throwing darts.

U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks suggest that China's leaders are aware their economic numbers get a little massaging. One cable dating back to 2007 refers to a dinner conversation between China's now vice premier Li Keqiang and the U.S. ambassador at the time. Li reportedly said statistics, including gross domestic product, are "for reference only." The cable paraphrases Li saying GDP data is man-made. Li is tapped to be the next premier, leading the nation's economic policy.

As with all these WikiLeaks, it's important to remember these are off the cuff remarks. However, RBS economist Ben Simpendorfer says the comments underscore the challenges China's leaders face in truly understanding their own rapidly evolving economy. "The data is improving," he told me. "But, in such a large and fast growing country, it is difficult to get accurate data."

Yet how long before reality catches up and China, along with the rest of the global economy, suffers?

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Filed under: AsiaBusinessChina

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. waley hu

    i really wanna say something, but i fear i will be jailed becaused of this. i can only say "everything is made in china"!

    December 7, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  2. wikilieak president

    your American better be watched out....the figure is not man's time will be came up very soon...u guys got jealously with those of unbelievable figures, didn't u ...loh...

    December 7, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  3. LV_nonanon

    Why did anyone ever believe China in the first place? Why did we admit them to the WTO based upon promises of reform? Why does anyone believe anything any police state says?

    December 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  4. Dozo

    If Chinese government statistics is capable of tracking all the off record economic activities, it might turn out that China's economy is a few times larger than what it is right now.

    December 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  5. Tim Teng

    A brain-twister for y'all

    If you can trust the words of Chicom leader, then you can distrust China's number.

    If you can't trust the words of Chicom leader, then presumably you can trust its number.

    December 7, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  6. Events

    China is already suffering from high inflation prices and have no idea what they are really getting into by inviting only top industries to both manufacture and sell products without any real competition within their country.
    China' goverment monopolies and corperate monopolies are horses of different colors.

    December 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
  7. Neil Cassidy

    As someone who has lived in China for five years now, I can tell you with great authority that, in China, when there is smoke, there is fire. Always. When there is any doubt about the veracity of anything–a product, a test score, a resume, an Olympic competition, a Ph.D dissertation, a slice of meat, whatever–you can be damn sure that doubt is justified.

    December 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
  8. Andi

    Can anyone trust the growth figure for any top 10 economies of the world? How many years did USA cook the the numbers driven largely by the housing bubble ?

    December 7, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  9. jets fans until yesterday

    lol the chinese economy is probably a lot bigger than stated...

    american need to learn something about the chinese, read the "art of war"...

    December 7, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
  10. LV_nonanon

    Let's print 4 trillion dollars to pay down our debt, not tell anyone, and be equal on the world stage with the other nations. China is not the only country making things up; the EU does it all the time.

    December 7, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  11. Whatever

    Neil, this is the internet. No one in their right mind would ever believe that your some "great authority" on everything that happens in China. So seriously, stfu. If the country sucks as much as you say, then wtf are you still living there? If the everything there is dubious to you (because someone somewhere will have doubts about something), then why would you "live there for five years"? 'Tard.

    December 7, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  12. me

    there nothing real (all fakes )in china except corruption , is w hat previous chinese premier said before
    corruption are real , other are fakes not real
    is china , they need you , they will smile and treated you well
    if ones day they not need you , they will ignore you n look down u
    is china

    December 7, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  13. Niles

    GDP means what ? nothing . it is not dedicated to every single person

    December 7, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  14. james

    it came out of a american deplometics 's mouth on the wikileak, so it means its is lie made by U.S. its called jealousy

    December 8, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  15. mah

    this is well known in the financial community, china is not the only country whose numbers have been questioned in the past.

    that is why indicators such as industrial electricity consumption and transport and import figures are also used to correlate that the numbers are true.

    there is also a degree of error in western published gdp numbers also, but obviosly less so.

    December 8, 2010 at 12:10 am |
  16. Danny

    To say it is man-made is not quite the same as being made-up (or fake). It could mean that those numbers are not as important as it's made out to be. Especially if those words are coming from a very high status official, whether you all believe him or not, every word and sentence usually have to be seen with several different perspectives.

    In general, most of the people studying China's economy seems to indicate that it's much larger than reported, but not as efficient as it's portrayed to be.

    December 8, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  17. Peter

    Their stats collection are not good enough that's why its takes much longer to get better data.

    They do revise their GDP numbers and other statistics after its been published for a month or two when they have better data, usually upwards.

    December 8, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  18. Get Real

    Lets look at an alternative. One that preaches democracy and freedom on the one hand while installing puppet governments on the other. One that claims of weapons of mass destruction but has military spending that exceeds vastly any other nation on earth. One that claims on improving economic figures while more people are lining for food stamps. Nothing is new under the sun.

    December 8, 2010 at 1:03 am |
  19. Godmade

    Whether it is man made or God made... but I see this country progress so fast everyday with so many achievement. People there are dressed well and live well than many developed nations. Like people say "large tree catch more wind". It sure make some jealousy folks try to make some pity remarks..

    December 8, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  20. peter


    December 8, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  21. Doubts

    Are the leaks really leaks after all? or have they purposely been planted as launching pads to attack and spread rumors on other nations? I don't know who or what to believe anymore. The plot thickens. Maybe we've all been taken for fools. Keep your minds open, people. Don't get tangled in the twist.

    December 8, 2010 at 2:32 am |
  22. Lou

    I take every information I find about any country including the United States with a "grain of salt." Remember, negative / not so popular news sales.

    I've noticed in recent years, The rise in anti-sino reports dominate mainstream media. It's almost like I stepped back into a time machine... we did the same thing with the Japanese and the trade issues we had with them.

    Recently, I was talking with a buddy of mine, we talked about the down economy, outsourcing, job cuts, etc... But the bottom line is, It's American companies that pulled these various positions out of the states and moved it somewhere else to increase their profit margins. Seriously, we can talk trash about the Chinese and it's government all day long. But in the end, we should ask the American companies who moved their plants overseas to increase their bottom line. ~ Just my 2 cents.

    December 8, 2010 at 2:45 am |
  23. QianLong

    Yet another bashing and demonishing of China, these seems to the West's and its overfed populace's past time, it has even catch on with a few brainless Chinese (if you are indeed Chinese as your nick name suggests). Whether you like it or not China is on the rise. What you think matters very very little.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:07 am |
  24. QianLong

    rack off CNN, so much for freedom of expression!!!

    December 8, 2010 at 4:07 am |
  25. Linda Wilson

    Anyone who believes anything the Chinese government has to say about anything is foolish. They're like the Muslims-absolutely convinced of their own righteousness and out to take over the world. If they can't do it physically, they'll do it psychologically and economically,

    December 8, 2010 at 4:38 am |
  26. Linda Wilson

    I grew up hearing the adage "experience is a wise teacher". Based on everything I have seen and heard, I do not believe the Chinese government can be trusted and neither can their economic figures.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:41 am |
  27. KKK

    That was a good one waley wu.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:46 am |
  28. bak

    a little bit suspicious but trustable data considering the speed of china's fast growing economy.

    December 8, 2010 at 5:32 am |
  29. Henry Magney

    In all countries the GDP is wrong becauser of the black economy. This can easily represent up to 20% of the Sales in Europe. Drug and criminal money are also not taken into account. Look to a country as a whole and to the beautiful chinese companies; the people not starving to death anymore etc... Macro figures are always wrong e.g. unemployment; how many people do not work illegally?

    December 8, 2010 at 6:14 am |
  30. Milton

    All GDP Figures are "Man Made". This shouldn't come as a surprise to all economists. This is what they do every day for a living. The numbers from the informal trader are not accurate if obtained and China is not stupid enough to project a disaster, otherwise all the manufacturing firms wouldn't moved all their factories there. We wanted to be capitalists, dealing with a former communist country..Surely the policies there have not significantly changed if not at all.

    December 8, 2010 at 9:25 am |

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