China's Records In the Eyes of Foreigners.
December 23, 2004 10:11 AM   Subscribe

"China's Records In the Eyes of Foreigners" Pick your favorite China statistic. Is it "GDP of the Shanghai region is equivalent to that of Brazil;" is it "Foreigners invest about $1 billion in China every week;" is it "China has the largest online gaming population in the world;" is it "China produces 2.3 billion condoms each year." NB article from the "People's Daily Online", although original source claimed to be the "French L'Express weekly".
posted by Voyageman (12 comments total)
Very good post, Voyageman!

Recently, and without much fanfair, the Globe & Mail did an all-China Saturday edition. I was on the ferry to Vancouver and saw dozens of people reading it. There was a lot of surprise and interest, discussion, pointing to facts and figures, etc...
posted by at 10:42 AM on December 23, 2004

One other thought about China's economic future. I was just listening to an interview on the CBC about China's investments in the Canadian oil sands. Here are a few other data points from that interview...
  • Canada is the US' largest source of oil. (Not Saudi Arabia, as many people believe.)
  • Husky Oil is listed on the Canadian stock exchange but is controlled by Li Ka-shing of Hong Kong.
  • Within the month, new agreements to supply China with oil are expected to be signed by Canadian companies.
  • China has huge cash reserves for foreign investments.
  • Issues such as US bans and punitive tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber and beef are forcing many Canadian industries to seek out new trading partners.
posted by at 12:31 PM on December 23, 2004

Here's the original article from l'Express, with pretty graphics. 95% of the world's tennis racquets are made in China?! Sorry, it's in French.

China never ceases to amaze. Looks like when people were talking about the largest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet, they were talking about the wrong side of the Pacific.

Aren't progress and industrialization cool? Seriously.

And: I, for one, welcome our new Chinese overlords
posted by Turtle at 2:56 PM on December 23, 2004

"GDP of the Shanghai region is equivalent to that of Brazil;"

Not bloomin' likely: Shanghai has a population of 17 million while Brazil has 171 million, and Brazil's GDP at PPP is $1.375 trillion. For the Shanghai region to surpass that, per capita GDP there would have to be more than $81,000, which would make it by far the single wealthiest conurbation on the planet, wealthier than the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, Greater London or New York City, an absurdity.

I suspect that many of the other statistics on that page will turn out to be bogus puffery when put under close scrutiny. China's economy is big all right, and getting bigger every day, but it's always a mistake to take anything coming from the Chinese government's propaganda organ (aka Xinhua) at face value.
posted by Goedel at 3:04 PM on December 23, 2004

Here is some data on GDP per capita for various European metropolises. Frankfurt am Main has the highest GDP per capita of the lot, and it still doesn't come close to the numbers claimed for Shanghai, while London, which is the world's biggest financial center (yes, bigger than New York), is only a fifth as wealthy as all of Brazil.
posted by Goedel at 3:09 PM on December 23, 2004

Goedel, I was going to say, good eye, except that...

The Shanghai region has a population of 200 million. Doesn't that kind of information just give you a slight twinge in the stomach? 200 million.

Thinking about China forces you to stretch your categories a little. And by the way, L'Express is a respectable mag. Not purchased by the Chinese govt. Last I heard anyway...

Oh, and 300 million more Chinese rurals are planning to go to town soon in the next 20 years.

Shanghai est la première ville de Chine, avec 17 millions d'habitants (20 en incluant les migrants). Sa région (200 millions d'habitants) a un PIB équivalant à celui du Brésil. Depuis 2000, 200 millions de ruraux ont quitté la campagne pour s'installer dans les villes; 300 millions suivront encore d'ici à 2030.
posted by Turtle at 3:15 PM on December 23, 2004

But it is amusing that in the Xinhua version, they say:

China produces 2.3 billion condoms each year

omitting this proviso from the original French report:

of which 200 million are defective.

This should concern Chinese users of Viagra, of which 9 out of 10 pills are knock-offs. And some day this may affect the 117 boys born for every 100 girls These tidbits were also omitted from the Chinese press agency version.

More facts removed from the French original:

- of the world's 20 most polluted cities, 16 are in China.
- 400,000 Chinese die of lung cancer every year
- 6,700 Chinese died in mines in 2003, 80% of the world's mining deaths

OK, progress and lack of democracy isn't all fun and games (as our own history shows)
posted by Turtle at 5:00 PM on December 23, 2004

If there's one thing I've learned during my time here in China, it's that things are always described to be much more impressive than they really are. It seems that after years of poverty, this country is trying its damnedest to impress the rest of the world. Couple this with, I guess impatience on a national scale, and you can see why these things would be inflated.
posted by taschenrechner at 6:38 PM on December 23, 2004

The "Shanghai area" referred to in government statistics includes Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui provinces, for a total area of 350000km2 -- a little larger than Germany but smaller than Montana. This region has a total population of about 245 million, but only 16-17 million of those actually live in the municipality of Shanghai. While the per capita GDP in Shanghai is US$4500, it's only US$780 in Anhui. The statistics are deliberately misleading, using the massive growth of Shanghai to prop up the whole east coast of China.

OK, progress and lack of democracy isn't all fun and games (as our own history shows)

I'm not apologizing for the Chinese government's mistakes, but I'm not sure how pollution, lung cancer, and mining deaths would be improved by democracy.
posted by twisted mister at 10:48 PM on December 23, 2004

Ok, right, this Shanghai region is rather large. The Yangzi Delta region is apparently 1/6 of the population of China, but 1/3 of its economy. Thanks for the clarification, mister (BTW, nice blog:

I mentioned lack of democracy to "balance" my previous comment about progress. I was thinking of the serious environmental disasters produced by command economies in Eastern Europe. I'd think local democracy, consumer defense groups, and independent unions might help. But basically it's clear I don't know what I'm talking about here :-)
posted by Turtle at 1:11 AM on December 24, 2004

Taschenrechner, after spending some time in China, I have to agree. While China's growth is no doubt impressive, it is _still_ a developing country. I think their GDP per capita is still at #110 or #111 in the world. (Of course, the aggregate GDP is easily in the top 10.)

It's not certain that China has anywhere to go but up. The country's financial sector is plagued with bad loans, and in some respects, the country is moving backward: the income gap is increasing, and national healthcare failing many of the western peasants.

I think China will emerge as the economic powerhouse of the world. I just think that there will be a few more bumps in the road than predicted.
posted by diftb at 6:53 AM on December 24, 2004

For those interested in the Chinese economy: China's Giant Specialty Cities [nytimes].
posted by diftb at 7:15 AM on December 24, 2004

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