China’s Li Doesn’t Believe His Own Numbers

China’s Premier Li Keqiang isn’t the sort of man to blush in public. But yesterday, when he went in front of China’s national legislature and targeted 7.5% growth in gross domestic product for 2014, he should have. The problem isn’t the number — most economists agree that 7.5% is a manageable if difficult goal. Rather, the issue is that Li Keqiang himself doesn’t believe in the accuracy of Chinese GDP statistics.

That, at least, is what he told then-U.S. ambassador to China Clark Randt over dinner on Mar. 12, 2007. At the time, Li was the Secretary General of Liaoning Province, and widely viewed as a potential successor to Chinese President Hu Jintao. According to a Mar. 15, 2007, declassified U.S. diplomatic cable (released by Wikileaks) recounting the dinner, a “smiling” Li declared that Chinese GDP figures were “man-made” and therefore unreliable — “for reference only.”

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