Numbers, numbers, numbers. It seems all anyone can talk about these days is China’s economic indicators, dear readers. Are they accurate? Will they disappoint? What do they really mean? Should we even care? It’s getting so that you can’t tell which ones to trust, whether it’s GDP, PMI, QDJ. Alright, we made that last one up. But we can tell you one thing for certain about these much-looked-to digits: There were a lot of them this week.
To start we learned that fixed-asset investment and industrial production growth figures for last month were both letdowns, meaning that old-growth industries aren’t even doing as well as hoped after observers adjusted their expectations. And that, it conspired, was despite government spending rising by a quarter last month, though a hefty chunk of change apparently went unspent by local governments struggling to turn cash in hand into actual economic activity.
Then came news that data in an official report on China’s coal use last year indicated that the world’s carbon emissions didn’t actually stall last year–they actually grew slightly. And the same report – kept offline until it was dug up by reporters for reasons unknown but also obvious to even the most casual observer – suggest that China’s growth during the previous decade was accompanied by far greater coal consumption than previously believed.
Meanwhile the mainland-made film Monster Hunt appeared to have broken all existing records for the China box office, but the Hollywood press corps were having none of it. They alleged American blockbusters had been robbed of their due by skulduggery on the part of party propagandists, who had bribed ticket counters to report blockbuster sales for Beijing’s latest nationalist flick ahead of the recent military parade.
Actual armies aside, no week is complete without a dispatch from the front lines of the great Tencent-Alibaba War. This one was no exception: No sooner, it seemed to us, had Alibaba’s diminutively-named affiliate Ant Financial bought a stake in an insurance unit of Cathay Financial than did news break of Tencent’s plans to plow great heaping mounds of yuan into cloud computing services over the next half-decade, the selfsame sector in which Jack Ma’s empire is now staking out a sizable fiefdom.
Whether either initiative pans out is of course far from certain. Yet amid all this epistemological uncertainty the world breathed, at least, one collective sigh of relief when the US Federal Reserve announced it wouldn’t raise interest rates this week. For now, at least, they remain stable at 0-0.25%.
You’ll have noted, we suspect, that the Fed’s was the only figure we actually mentioned from a seven-day span we’d claimed to be positively packed to the gills with new numbers. But that’s only because as far as we’re concerned, dear readers, all the others are simply best guesses at best.