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Michael Pettis

What’s in a Number? In China, Not Much

As the debate in Beijing intensifies over the quality and sustainability of China’s economic growth, a shift in thinking is taking place. China’s most thoughtful economists are increasingly skeptical about the need for high gross domestic product growth rates.

China’s leadership has always put great stock in its GDP numbers. This year’s growth target is 7.5 percent; when Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said in Washington earlier this month that “the 7 percent goal should not be considered as the bottom line,” China’s state-run media first reported, and then hastily whitewashed, his statement. According to Xinhua News Agency, Lou had actually used the 7.5 percent figure -- coincidentally, the exact number reported July 15 for the second quarter.