China raises estimate of 2013 economic output, possibly moving closer to overtaking US

BEIJING, China – China on Tuesday raised its official estimate of last year’s gross domestic product, possibly moving closer to passing the United States as the biggest economy.

There was no indication the change would affect official policy. But higher output might help to reassure Chinese leaders who are trying to transform a slowing economy and reduce reliance on trade and investment.

Last year’s official GDP value will be raised by 3 per cent following a regular economic census, the director of the National Bureau of Statistics, Ma Jiantang, said at a news conference.

Ma gave no details but based on previously reported data, the increase would make 2013’s GDP about $9.6 trillion or just under two-thirds of U.S. output of $16.8 trillion.

Growing economic output helps to support Beijing’s campaign to gain a bigger voice in managing global affairs. But officials insist China still is a developing country, possibly to blunt demands for Beijing to take on more international responsibilities.

China’s growth fell to a five-year low of 7.3 per cent last quarter. The economy grew 7.7 per cent in 2013 though that figure is likely to change after the revision of the year’s GDP estimate.

Analysts expect the ruling Communist Party to cut next year’s growth target to 7 per cent. But that still is more than double the 3 per cent forecast by the International Monetary Fund for the U.S.

Following an annual planning meeting last week, the party leaders affirmed their commitment to a “new normal” of slower, self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and technology instead of trade and investment.

China is forecast to become the biggest economy as early as 2020, though its income per person would be much lower than developed nations such as the U.S.

Most countries update estimates of economic growth as additional data become available but China’s revisions are the biggest among major countries.

In 2009, the government raised its estimate of 2007 growth from an already high 11.9 per cent to 13 per cent. That meant China moved ahead of Germany as the third-largest economy behind the U.S. and Japan.

In 2010, China passed Japan as the second-biggest economy.


National Bureau of Statistics (in Chinese):