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Measuring China's Resilient Economy

Measuring China's Resilient Economy
Photograph by Getty Images

Are China’s economic juices flowing like baijiu at a banquet or coagulating like the remnants of yesterday’s hotpot? Official data are often distrusted. A growing database of alternative indicators—ranging from same-store sales at Kentucky Fried Chicken to apartment sales in top cities—provides a different way to understand the world’s second-largest economy. Here’s what the data say.

The main concern about China’s economy in the second half of 2014 is a slump in the real estate sector. Fading construction threatens to hit demand for everything from steel to furniture. The official figures paint a depressing picture, with sales falling in July and work on new projects following them down. Alternative indicators from private real estate agencies point in the same direction. Statistics from China Real Estate Information Corp. show that sales in China’s top 30 cities in July were down 45 percent year on year.