Seeking Truth and Hiding Facts (deal!)
Something to read while we wait for China's delayed GDP statistics
It’s been awhile. I’ve mostly used this newsletter to write through my reading and thinking about China and climate change, which will be the subject of my next big research project (read: book).
But I would be remiss not to share with you that I have a new book, Seeking Truth and Hiding Facts: Information, Ideology, and Authoritarianism in China, coming out next Tuesday. In a single line, the book argues that a few numbers came to define Chinese politics, until they did not count what mattered and what they counted didn’t measure up.
I could hardly have asked for a more appropriate moment for the book to be coming out. China’s 20th Party Congress is justifiably drawing huge amounts of attention. A knock-on effect of the Party Congress is that the country’s National Bureau of Statistics just postponed the release of GDP data. That one number was likely to confirm that the country would fail to hit its GDP target this year, which was set at 5.5% back in March.
Almost immediately the questioning began: why was the target set at 5.5%? Why not higher? Why “about 5.5%” instead of a broader range? Others were harsher: the target was “dead on arrival.” Months of COVID lockdowns and continued weakness in the all-important real estate sector caused Beijing to concede. By late July, leaders had downgraded the 5.5% number to “guidance” rather than a “hard target that must be hit.” Most estimates put China’s growth for 2022 at closer to 3% or below than 4%, with some arguing that it is already in a recession. I wrote about the politics of returning to a GDP target for Foreign Affairs.
Now we won’t even get to see what that data look like until we’re on the other side of the Party Congress. The data release was also how I started my conversation with Katie Stallard at the New Statesman’s World Review podcast.
I’ll share more pieces when they come out (and incessantly on Twitter @jerometenk) that connect the arguments of the book to the world we find ourselves in this year of our lord 2022. But I wanted to alert readers here of a deal. Amazon.com has currently priced the kindle version of Seeking Truth at just $9.99. I don’t know why nor how long it will last, but despite being about numbers, the book is overwhelmingly text and should be fine to read on a kindle.
I will admit to being far too excited to share these most embarrassing things, so here’s a taste:
China was red,
Stats almost true,
Reform was sweet,
Now you’re laid off too.