Chinese Stats Official Says Economic Growth Last Year Was Slower Than Many Thought
As confidence in the prospects for China's economy this year has become more widespread, a new picture of its recent performance has also emerged one that could finally make it easier to compare China's economy to those of other big countries.
In an unusual essay (in Chinese here), Guo Tongxin, an official at the National Bureau of Statistics, gives estimates for recent changes in China's gross domestic product that follow the international convention of quarter-on-quarter comparisons. That's a technical-but-important departure from China's usual practice of describing year-on-year growth and the figures paint a very different view of China's economy over the last year or so than the headline numbers China has previously announced. (The article, published Tuesday, carries a disclaimer saying it represents Guo's personal views, not those of the bureau.)
China's traditional method compares GDP and most other indicators to the same period in the previous year. The U.S. and most other developed economies report GDP's changes relative to the previous quarter, which gives a clearer picture of the most recent trend. But with the onset of the financial crisis, China's statistics bureau has been working to improve the transparency and quality of its data. Among other changes, it has promised to start regularly publishing quarterly GDP growth rates in 2010. Many private-sector economists already try to make such estimates, but complain they lack sufficient information to do so accurately.
The new estimates from Guo, which only cover 2008 and early 2009, may be a surprise for skeptics who suspect that China's statistics officials are only capable of reporting nice-sounding numbers. These figures actually show the slowdown in the fourth quarter of last year was even sharper than most outside economists had believed.
Economists surveyed by the Journal in February had, on average, estimated that fourth-quarter GDP expanded at an annualized rate of 2.1%. Guo cited what he called a preliminary estimate that fourth quarter GDP grew 0.1% from the previous quarter, equivalent to an annualized rate of just 0.4%.
The headline year-on-year growth rate announced at the time, by comparison, was 6.8% ─ a gap that clearly shows how quarterly and annual growth rates can give very different pictures of economic turning points.
In a recent article, noted China economist Albert Keidel said the preference for year-on-year comparisons 'illustrates the choice made by China's statistical authorities to use measures that are relatively stable and change only gradually.' The year-on-year comparisons are not necessarily less accurate the U.S. and other nations also report them but their use does mean Chinese authorities 'give up measures that present a more timely picture of what happened to the economy in the immediately preceding quarter or month,' Keidel wrote. That preference has come to seem much less desirable given the rapid changes in the economy over the past year, and has led to pressure on the statistics bureau to improve.
For the first quarter of 2009, when outside economists generally agreed with the bureau's assessment that growth had picked up significantly, the difference isn't so great. Guo's preliminary estimate of a 1.5% quarterly expansion, equivalent to 6.1% annualized rate, is within the 5% to 7% range that most private economists came up with at the time. Guo also said growth for the second quarter is likely to accelerate further to above 2.0%, equivalent to an annualized increase of more than 8%.
Still, it's notable that the bureau only disclosed the low estimate for fourth-quarter growth several months after the fact, when the government is more confident the economy is recovering. It's not alone ─ the World Bank and several investment-bank economists have recently raised their forecast for China's growth this year, citing the bigger-than-expected effect of the government's stimulus programs. But it's hard to escape the feeling that the statistics bureau is still sensitive to the political implications the numbers it publishes.
在 上週四發表的一份不同尋常的文章中﹐中國國家統計局官員郭同欣按照國際通用的季度環比統計方法﹐對中國國內生產總值(GDP)的近期變化作出了自己的預 計。這個變化雖然是技術層面﹐然而具有重大意義﹐它告別了中國通常使用的同比增速統計方式﹔較之中國此前宣佈的同比增速﹐新的統計方式給我們帶來了對中國 經濟過去一年左右時間表現的一個完全不同的看法。（這篇文章附帶一個聲明﹐稱文章不代表國家統計局觀點﹐作者文責自負。）
中國在公佈 GDP數據和大多數其他指標時通常只公佈同比變化。而美國和大多數其他發達經濟體則會公佈相對於前一個季度的GDP環比變化﹐這樣可以更為明確地顯示最近 的趨勢。但隨著此次金融危機的爆發﹐中國國際統計局一直在努力提高數據的透明度和質量。除了其他變化﹐中國國家統計局還承諾從2010年開始定期公佈每季 度GDP增速。雖然很多私人部門經濟學家已經在試圖作出此類預計﹐但他們抱怨自己缺乏充足的信息作出準確預計。
研 究中國的經濟學家凱德爾(Albert Keidel)在不久前的一篇文章中強調﹐對同比數據的偏愛顯示出中國統計部門選擇使用相對穩定、只會逐步出現變化的標準。凱德爾說﹐同比數據並不一定不 準確﹐美國和其他國家也會公佈同比數據﹐但使用同比數據確實意味著中國有關當局放棄了能夠更及時反映出上一季度或上月經濟動態的衡量標準。過去一年中由於 經濟形勢迅速變化﹐這種對同比數據的偏好似乎無法讓人滿意﹐並給統計局帶來必須做出改進的壓力。
2009年一季度﹐外界經濟學家大體上同 意統計局的看法﹐認為經濟增長顯著加快﹐因此雙方之間的分歧不是太大。郭同欣初步預計一季度環比增長1.5%﹐年化增長率為6.1%﹐大多數民間經濟學家 得出的結論是增幅在5%-7%之間。郭同欣還說﹐今年第二季度經濟增幅可能進一步加大到2%以上﹐年化增長率為8%以上。
不過﹐值得注意 的是統計局是在政府更為自信地認為經濟正在復蘇之時才公佈去年第四季度低迷的增幅預計﹐而這已經是幾個月之後的事情。無獨有偶﹐世界銀行和幾家投資銀行的 經濟學家最近也上調了中國今年綠增長的預期﹐原因是中國政府的經濟刺激計劃的效應大於預期。但人們還是有種揮之不去的感覺﹐認為統計局仍然對其所公佈的數 據的政治意味十分敏感。
Detroit's car makers increased their new-vehicle quality scores by an average of 10% in an influential industry survey despite being rocked by bankruptcies and the recession.
Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC reduced the number of troubles reported by consumers during their first 90 days of ownership, according to the annual J.D. Power & Associates Initial Quality study. Toyota Motor Corp. led all the makers, with its Lexus brand finishing in the top spot, while BMW AG's Mini was last.
The results come at a time when quality and brand image are under intense pressure as auto makers are forced to make deep worker cuts and idle factories, which can lead to production problems.
The quality gap between the foreign brands and U.S. auto companies is now the smallest it has ever been, said David Sargent, J.D. Power's vice president of automotive research. The domestic brands lagged behind the foreign auto makers by just six points.
'Domestic and import initial quality is equal for cars, and the domestics have a slight edge for trucks,' Mr. Sargent said in a speech Monday in Detroit. 'Imports have a significant edge for crossovers.'
The biggest surprise was Chrysler. The company's iconic Jeep brand, which finished last in quality in 2008, climbed four spots in the rankings. Jeep had 137 problems per 100 vehicles -- 29 fewer than last year. The industry average was 108 problems per 100 vehicles.
Chrysler, which filed for bankruptcy April 30 and merged its assets with Fiat SpA, undertook a massive overhaul of its brands in 2008. Many of the vehicles were outfitted with new technologies and redesigned to focus on consumer comfort.
Problems tracked by J.D. Power can range from wind noise to transmission failure. The vehicles were evaluated between November through February.
Toyota's Lexus beat Porsche Automobil Holding SE with 84 problems compared to Porsche's 90. Porsche had the top spot for the past two years. GM's Cadillac finished in third with 91 problems followed by Hyundai Motor Co. at 95 and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. at 99.
Ford's Mercury and Ford nameplates scored above average, but the Lincoln brand finished in 27th place with 129 problems. Lincoln finished 15th last year. Volvo, which Ford is trying to sell, was 24th.
Ford, which has sidestepped the need for federal aid, is relying on product introductions to drive purchases. The company is still losing billions of dollars a year. GM and Chrysler both took federal aid late last year to continue operating during the economic downturn.
GM's vehicles were all over the board. Chevrolet finished in ninth place with 103 problems, but its GMC and Buick came in 18th and 19th, respectively. Buick, with its 117 problems, tied with the industry average last year.
Saturn, Saab and Hummer all finished well below the industry average. Saab was the lowest ranking nameplate with 138 problems. GM is in the process of selling off Saturn, Hummer and Saab as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. It also plans to close its Pontiac brand, which finished in 22nd place with 118 problems. BMW's Mini finished last with 165 problems.
據J.D. Power & Associates年度新車質量調查顯示﹐在新購車輛的最初90天中﹐消費者報告的福特汽車(Ford Motor Co.)、通用汽車(General Motors Corp.)和克萊斯勒(Chrysler Group LLC)汽車問題減少。豐田汽車(Toyota Motor Corp.)領先於所有汽車生產商﹐該公司旗下的雷克薩斯(Lexus)品牌奪得榜首﹐而寶馬汽車公司(BMW AG)的Mini品牌則是最後一名。
J.D. Power負責汽車研究的副總裁薩金特(David Sargent)說﹐目前外國品牌和美國汽車企業之間的質量差距是有史以來最小的。本土品牌只落後於外國汽車廠商6分。
豐 田汽車的雷克薩斯有84個問題﹐擊敗有90個問題的保時捷(Porsche Automobil Holding SE)奪冠。過去兩年來保時捷一直把持著冠軍寶座。通用汽車旗下的凱迪拉克(Cadillac)有91個問題﹐位居第三﹔現代汽車(Hyundai Motor Co.)有95個問題﹐排第四﹔本田汽車(Honda Motor Co.)有99個問題﹐排第五。
通用汽車旗下品牌大放異彩--翻譯錯誤 all over the board 指"表現差異甚大" 。雪佛蘭(Chevrolet)有103個問題﹐位居第9﹐不過GMC和別克(Buick)分列第18和19位。別克去年有117個問題﹐與行業平均水平持平。
土 星(Saturn)、薩博(Saab)和悍馬(Hummer)均遠遠低於行業平均水平。薩博是排在最末位的品牌﹐有138個問題。作為破產重組的一部分﹐ 通用汽車正在出售土星、悍馬和薩博。該公司還計劃結束龐蒂亞克(Pontiac)品牌﹐該品牌有118個問題﹐排第22位。寶馬旗下的Mini有165個 問題﹐排在最末一名。
On a hot August day in 1892, someone took an axe and brutally murdered Andrew and Abby Borden of Fall River, Massachusetts. Circumstantial evidence pointed a finger of guilt at Andrew's 32-year-old daughter Lizzie; some ten months later, she was brought to trial for the crime. The national press had a field day with the story of the spinster schoolteacher and the particularly heinous way her father and stepmother met their demise. The defense rested largely on the issue of reasonable doubt. No one could explain how Lizzie could have accomplished the murders without splattering herself with blood, or how she could clean herself up so quickly. On this date in 1893, the jury found Lizzie Borden innocent of the axe murders of her father and stepmother.
友 人按鈴未獲回應，聯絡房東以備份鑰匙開門，看到田翁赤腳趴臥玄關鞋櫃前，全身有多處刀傷倒臥血泊中。警方調查，田女有多條毒品前科，是列管的毒品人口，死 者平常寵愛女兒，當天因女兒向老父要五千元購買毒品，但老父只給三百元，雙方因此在女兒住處爆發口角衝突，老父因此遇害。
Mailboxes installed on street corners in Tokyo and Yokohama during the early Meiji Era (1868-1912) were painted black. Back then, the word yubin (post or mail) had only recently been coined.
There's a story that a man who misread the kanji characters for yubin as tareben (relieving oneself) urinated on a mailbox because the characters are similar. Although I don't know if the story is accurate, it dates from 138 years ago when the modern postal service system took off.
Maejima Hisoka (1835-1919), who founded the system, is said to have been a selfless man. Shortly before he was due to leave government service after having seen his brainchild get off the ground, his acquaintances tried to stop him, saying, "If you stay a little longer, you will be entitled to receive a pension." But Maejima took his leave with a smile. His philosophical attitude is apparent from "Yubin Sogyo-dan" (Episodes about the establishment of the postal system), a posthumous collection of Maejima's writings.
The man known for his rectitude would turn over in his grave if he knew about the abuse of the postage discount system for groups supporting people with disabilities.
The scandal led to the arrest of a bureau chief at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare over the weekend. The high-ranking official is suspected of having issued a falsified "seal of approval" to an organization claiming to be a disability support group, even though it was not involved in such activities.
The phrase yoto-kuniku literally means offering the head of a sheep on a signboard to sell dog meat. It refers to false advertising. The irregularity is tantamount to giving a sheep's head to a shady organization to hide what it is actually doing.
The bureau chief is said to be denying the allegations. If she is telling the truth, whose will and acts led to the wrongdoing?
We are hearing the phrase seiji anken (political matter) once again. It is bureaucratic jargon for favors supported by politicians. It would be most worrisome if the certificate was forged with no criminal intent on the part of anyone involved in the case. If so, it means the irregularity is a product of government bureaucrats who maintain cozy relationships with politicians.
Referring to the bureau chief, Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Yoichi Masuzoe said, "She was a rising star for working women."
Regrettably, Masuzoe used the past tense. If the situation continues, the bureau chief, unlike Maejima, will end up failing in mid-career on a sour note.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 16(IHT/Asahi: June 17,2009)
為 什麼不確定性如此令人懼怕？為什麼我們情願知道壞事肯定會發生﹐也不願去猜測壞事會不會發生？當我們知道壞事肯定會發生的時候﹐我們可能會難過一陣子。但 接下來﹐大多數人都會努力改變他們的行為或態度﹐盡可能的調整自己。吉爾伯特寫道﹐但如果我們不知道要出現什麼狀況﹐那才真的令人煎熬。
但 就像死亡和納稅一樣﹐不確定性也是生命中不可避免的部分。你或孩子們可能會患上怪病﹐工作的最後期限也難以預見﹐會遇到交通障礙。很多想要孩子的夫婦﹐尤 其是那些為生育問題苦惱的夫婦﹐在等待確定是否懷孕的時候﹐也每個月都會面臨不確定性。這一切都意味著﹐我們需要找到如何應對不確定性的辦法──辦法之一 就是接受現實。不管我們怎麼努力﹐總會有我們無法控制的事情﹐因此就該想開點﹐隨遇而安。
Rachel Emma Silverman