China Q3 GDP Is a Mystery

It would’ve been a partial mystery even if NBS had released the number. Now it’s even more of a mystery, as the release has been delayed indefinitely (Trade data is a mystery too…)

Here’s reported GDP, Bloomberg consensus, and the IMF October 2022 World Economic Outlook forecast.

Figure 1: China GDP (black), Bloomberg consensus as of 10/17 (sky blue square), Goldman Sachs as of 10/11 (brown triangle), and IMF World Economic Outlook October 2022 forecasts (red square), mn 2020CNY, quarterly rates. ECRI peak-to-trough recession dates shaded gray. Source: IMF, International Financial Statistics, Bloomberg (October 17, 2022), Goldman Sachs “Top of Mind” (10/11) and IMF World Economic Outlook, October 2022, ECRI, and author’s calculations..

The Bloomberg consensus was for a rebound of3.3% in Q3, while Goldman Sachs recently put q4/q4 growth at 3.3%. The recently released IMF WEO forecasts show 4.3% q4/q4 growth in 2022, and 2.6% growth in 2023 [IMF numbers corrected 9:10am Pacific]. The IMF forecast for 2022 is unchanged from July, but down 0.4 ppts from April. Neither the consensus, Goldman Sachs, nor the IMF WEO forecast are consistent with the target of 5.5% growth the government has set.

In any case, we know with even less certainty than usual what is happening with Chinese GDP. While recently, Chinese GDP seems to track alternative business-cylce frequency estimators, such as the Fernald-Hsu-Spiegel CCAT (see this post), this delay is disconcerting, particularly since China accounts for about 18% of world output (compared to 14% for the eurozone, and 25% for the United States, evaluated at current exchange rates). (Note this is a separate issue from trend growth, as discussed in the recent paper by Martinez (JPE, 2022) [ungated version] on how GDP statistics overstate growth in dictatorships).

While China accounts for less than US share of of (estimated) 2022 nominal world GDP, its contribution to the deviation from trend forecasted real growth is as large as that of the United States.

Source: IMF, WEO (October 2022), Fig. 1-16.

So what is Chinese economic activity growth? Until we get the report, we’ll have to be content with proxy measures. McKenna at Wells Fargo Economics (October 14) provides this heatmap of the Chinese economy, for reference.

Source: Wells Fargo Economics (October 14, 2022).




24 thoughts on “China Q3 GDP Is a Mystery

  1. ltr

    October 20, 2022

    Chinese mainland records 211 new confirmed COVID-19 cases

    The Chinese mainland recorded 211 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with 164 attributed to local transmissions and 47 from overseas, data from the National Health Commission showed on Thursday.

    A total of 751 asymptomatic cases were also recorded on Wednesday, and 15,765 asymptomatic patients remain under medical observation.

    The cumulative number of confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland is 256,726, with the death toll from COVID-19 standing at 5,226.

    Chinese mainland new locally transmitted cases

    Chinese mainland new imported cases

    Chinese mainland new asymptomatic cases

  2. Steven Kopits

    Xi is taking China down a rabbit hole. China will either become a closed economy once again — because that is what Chinese emperors have favored for 4,000 years — or it is ripe for revolution. If the middle class wants to continue being middle class, it is time to take to Tiananmen Square again.

      1. Steven Kopits


        Used especially in the phrase going down the rabbit hole or falling down the rabbit hole, a rabbit hole is a metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully (or troublingly) surreal state or situation.,troublingly)%20surreal%20state%20or%20situation.

        Down the rabbit hole describes the act of journeying into a bizarre or disorienting environment that is difficult to remove oneself from. A person may say he has gone down the rabbit hole or fallen down the rabbit hole when he finds himself in a situation that is surreal or extremely odd.

        1. pgl

          Yea I know how to use a dictionary troll. Your little description of the Chinese economy lacks any substance. Of course most of your discussions of economics have not one shred of substance. But way to make up for a devoid of substance with flowerly language.

        2. pgl

          I get the sense that Stevie’s mommy and daddy never read Alice in Wonderland which is where the term Rabbit Hole originated. For the education of our completely ignorant arrogant jerk, let share this:

          What does the rabbit hole symbolize in Alice in Wonderland? The term “down the rabbit hole ” is a metaphor for the entry into the unknown, which is exactly what happens in Alice in Wonderland. The rabbit hole is the place where everything begins. In conclusion, the rabbit hole symbolizes a gate into a new world, adventures, and unknown territories.

          Now this has NOTHING to do with the real GDP of China unless one is a self promoting incompetent consultant who is desparate to promote his worthless business.

    1. pgl

      Xi introduced The Belt and Road Initiative a decade ago. I guess one has to skip ltr’s persistence reminders to have missed this. But Princeton Stevie still writes “China will either become a closed economy once again — because that is what Chinese emperors have favored for 4,000 years”? Yea – he is one arrogant IDIOT!

      1. Steven Kopits

        And yet there it is. China must move either forward or backward. If it moves forward, it will become a democracy because the public will both need and demand rule of law. On the current trajectory, China is set to become autocracy and a closed economy once again. That’s the path of least resistance for the imperial household, including that of Xi. That’s proved true in China for millennia.

        As I wrote four and a half years ago:

        Governance form and GDP per capita are closely correlated. Very few poor countries can sustain democracy, and virtually no rich countries can exist without it.

        China now occupies a precarious space. Even today, its per capita GDP puts it at the high end of the Authoritarian range. Many countries with similar income are already weak democracies.

        At a 6% GDP growth rate, by 2025 China will occupy a governance space where it will be the sole authoritarian regime surrounded by weak and established democracies. By 2030, at a 6% growth pace, China will be knocking on the door of the advanced economies.

        Unlike many other analysts, our view holds that China is coming to a crossroads of governance. At some point in the coming years, China will face a crisis which will either take it forward towards advanced country governance or turn it back and lead that great nation to withdraw from the world, as it has without fail throughout its long history.

        I have not changed my view.

        1. pgl

          Get a clue troll. I do not give a damn about the intellectual garbage you have written in the past. And it would do us all a big favor if you cease posting your stupid garbage here.

        2. pgl

          Let’s see. Stevie gets China’s real per capita growth rate has been rather high and he thinks it will continue to be high for the rest of the decade. But he calls this going down the rabbit hole?

          YEA – I am right. His writing SUCKS.

        3. baffling

          I don’t think it moves any closer to a democracy in the near or middle term. and I don’t think it withdraws from the world, either. Steven, you better prepare for that scenario.

        4. Barkley Rosser


          I think you are partly right. I do not think there is much chance of PRC going democratic anytime soon. Clearly Xi is taking it in a sharply authoritarian direction, which seems also to be associated with a slowing economy and some cutting of relations with other economies, although some of that is coming from the others, such as the US. He may even be OK with the slowing economy partly because he may see it as reducing pressure for democratization, although I do not know about that.

          I do not know whether this should be characterized as “going down a rabbit hole” or not.

          1. Barkley Rosser

            One aspect of that slowing down that he clearly sees as reducing some pressures for general liberalization is his bashing of CEOs of major private companies, with that probably slowing down their growth, including in high tech sectors. This seems strange to outsiders, although it has an internal political logic. Apparently the number of high officials from private companies attending the Party Congress was way down, with basically no CEOs of major corporations there, although some have attended these congresses in the past. They are out now.

          2. Steven Kopits

            Oh for goodness sake, it’s a comment on a blog, not a PhD thesis. Pgl is going down a rabbit hole with this whole discussion. He’s a guy with a chip on his shoulder and nothing better to do with his time.

          3. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Steven Kopits: I hardly think you are in a strong position to characterize other people as “going down a rabbit hole”. By the way, how is that 2022H1 recession call going?

  3. pgl

    Under another post the very dishonest RECESSION CHEERLEADER JohnH wrote this garbage:

    October 19, 2022 at 11:09 am
    No doubt about it…’ the US economy is somehow “catering”’ Gourmet or cafeteria style? That is the question! I guess I won’t get to see how economists of a certain persuasion will react to three straight negative quarters! But I have noticed a remarkable decline in the number of posts presenting alternative measures to GDP!

    Of course he is blatantly misrepresenting what others are providing as he fails to give a single credible data point for this “Gourmet catering” (notice his language gets fancy when his logic absolutely fails). Now we know JohnH loves all sorts of stupid conspiracy theories about data reporting.

    So when we have an actual case of the Chinese government delaying the release of GDP data, Putin’s favorite pet poodle goes silent. I can only imagine the conversation between Xi and Putin!

  4. Macroduck

    The Wells Fargo table shows services and manufacturing holding steady in September while everything else is weaker. Services holding up is conventional. Manufacturing holding up while exports and real estate (construction) weaken doesn’t seem sustainable.

    More important, though, is the implication of the delay. Xi is not willing to have the latest national accounts news published while he is nailing down his role as dictator-for-life. How bad the GDP numbers need to be for Xi to demand a delay depends on his level of concern or vanity. ltr’s behavior here demonstrates Xi’s vanity, but doesn’t help quantify.

  5. ltr

    October 20, 2022

    China’s FAST telescope discovers the biggest atomic cloud in universe

    China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) discovered the biggest atomic cloud in the universe by far, which is 20 times larger than our Milky Way galaxy.

    The finding * was published by an international team led by Chinese scientists in international journal Nature on Wednesday.

    Using the world’s largest single-dish telescope, the scientists observed a group of galaxies known as Stephan’s Quintet. The result shows a mammoth low-density gaseous structure existed in a relatively far location from the center of Stephan’s Quintet.

    The atomic cloud is roughly 2 million light years wide and made up of hydrogen atoms. One light year is equivalent to about 9.46 trillion kilometers.

    The latest finding suggests that the gaseous structure may be formed under the influence of interactions between galaxies. It has already existed for 1 billion years.

    The study also suggested there might be more large-scale, low-density atomic gas structures out in space.

    The discovery challenges the current understanding of how the galaxies and the gaseous structure evolved in the universe as “the atomic gas with low density should have been destroyed by the ultraviolet radiation in the cosmic background based on current theories,” according to the lead author Xu Cong from the National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


  6. Barkley Rosser

    Well, David Ignatius in WaPo reports that steel production near Beijing has been cut in half in order to help have clear skies during the current Party Congress, which is pretty much certain to approve a third term for Xi Jinping as General Secretary. They do not want any clouds of any sort on any sky for this “joyous” event, as some primary school teacher was reported as describing it.

  7. Bruce Hall

    So, it’s a choice between poor data and no data?

    From nearly a decade ago:

    This year: and

    ltr might be able to clarify if he/she can pull away from Chinese COVID statistics (which are of little interest anymore).

    1. pgl

      You know – you finally provided some decent links and then you had to go all disgustingly MAGA with that last sentence. FYI lying troll – Omicron is still here and winter is coming. Stock up on your bleach.

  8. pgl

    “ltr might be able to clarify if he/she can pull away from Chinese COVID statistics (which are of little interest anymore).”

    Bruce Hall never cared a bit whether lots of people died from COVID19 but at least Kevin Drum still cares about the data on new COVID cases:

    BTW – Kevin attracts quite a few comments over at his blog. Of course NONE of them ever come from Bruce Hall. I wonder why not? Maybe Kevin banned Bruce which would be smart. Or maybe Brucie is too scared to comment there.

Comments are closed.