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Statistics Tell the Tale
Qiu Xiaohua, deputy director general of the National Bureau of Statistics, summarized the national economic status for the first quarter of this year at a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office Wednesday. He also explained to the media how China’s statistical system works.

Some foreign agencies and individuals have alleged that China’s statistics are unreliable. They defend their idea by saying that China’s energy consumption grew slowly and in certain years it even dropped, which is inconsistent with China’s constant economic growth.

“This view is false and misleading,” Qiu said. He noted that slower energy consumption growth than simultaneous economic growth has extensively existed in the economic development histories of countries all over the world.

According to currently available data, some economic powers -- such as the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Germany -- all have experienced occasionally similar situations to what is happening in China now. The reason behind this phenomenon is that changes in technologies and industrial structure can always alter the relationship between energy consumption and economic growth in a nation’s economic development process.

During the past ten years in China, the energy consumption cost for GDP (gross domestic product) growth has dropped annually by 5 percent because of the development in technologies and change in industrial structure. China’s story proves that the economy can be boosted by saving energy.

The foreign agencies and individuals also challenge China’s statistical data with the figures of the growth in China’s freight by air, road and railroad.

“This is not right either,” Qiu said, “They are totally ignorant about the fact that China’s transportation system has radically changed.”

In recent years highway transportation has made a great leap in China and the non-state companies, which account for nearly 80 percent of the total number of transportation companies, have replaced those state-owned enterprises to become the main force of transportation. Apparently, it is not proper for those foreign agencies and individuals to verify China’s statistical data with the figures solely representing the growth of China’s state-owned transportation.

During the over 20 years of reform and opening-up, China’s statistical system has been much improved, Qiu said. Firstly, China has adopted the 1993 Business Accounting System of the United Nations to align its business accounting system with standard international ones. Secondly, China has always been ameliorating the technology of its statistical system. China has established an automatic transmission and feedback system among national and local statistical networks. In the past two years the National Bureau of Statistics connected its network with the networks of 5,000 key industrial enterprises, 3,000 key real-estate enterprises and more than 1,000 commercial enterprises. Thirdly, in many fields spot checks, which is an internationally accepted science that guarantees the exactness of figures under certain probabilities, has substituted for report forms as the major statistical method. Fourthly, the state has reinforced the statistical law system and its enforcement in the past several years. The bureau has provided the public with a telephone number for people to report any cases violating the State Statistical Act and has investigated into each reported case. Last year the bureau dealt with altogether 62,000 such cases which involves only a small proportion of the existing thousands of statistical and survey agencies. It’s not justifiable to deduce that China’s statistical data are unreliable.

The increase of citizens’ savings deposits and state foreign exchange reserve, as well as the progress in infrastructure construction, has sufficiently proved the economic development of China, said Qiu Xiaohua.

In 1978, the savings deposits of Chinese residents were 20.6 billion yuan (US$2.49 billion), while now the figure has grown into over 7,800 billion yuan (US$943.488 billion). This would be the best example to illustrate China’s economic development. Qiu admitted that gaps still remain between China’s statistical work and general international rules as well as the statistical work in developed countries. From time to time, the figures provided by the bureau were not complete or timely enough. To remedy this situation, on January 1, 2002, Dai Xianglong, governor of the People’s Bank of China, on behalf of the Chinese government, endorsed a letter to the International Monetary Funds (IMF), promising that China will join the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) advocated by the organization. It is safe to predict that domestic and international communities will have easier and prompter access to more understandable Chinese statistical data in the near future.

(china.org.cn, translated by Chen Chao, April 18, 2002)

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