(p. A1) In the second quarter of this year, official Chinese data showed economic growth of 6.2%, close to Beijing’s target and within a percentage point of what it has reported every quarter for the past 4½ years.
A few months earlier, satellites monitoring Chinese industrial hubs suggested parts of the world’s largest trading economy were contracting. An index of Chinese industrial production created by a multinational manufacturer was pointing to lower growth than official figures. And a web-search index used to gauge how many workers return to their jobs after the Lunar New Year holidays was down sharply from a year earlier.
Beneath China’s stable headline economic numbers, there is a growing belief among economists, companies and investors around the world that the real picture is worse than the official data. That has analysts and researchers crunching an array of alternative data—from energy consumption to photos taken from space—for a more accurate reading.
Their conclusion: China’s economy isn’t tanking, but it is almost certainly weaker than advertised. Some economists who have dissected China’s GDP numbers say more accurate figures could be up to 3 percentage points lower, based on their analysis of corporate profits, tax revenue, rail freight, property sales and other measures of activity that they believe are harder for the gov-(p. A10)ernment to fudge.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 8, 2019, and has the title “China Says Growth Is Fine. Private Data Show a Sharper Slowdown.” )