Caixin
Dec 19, 2018 08:54 PM
ECONOMY

Beijing Says It Suspended Guangdong Economic Indicator Over Paperwork

China’s national statistics bureau ordered a department of the Guangdong government to suspend surveying manufacturers for a closely watched regional economic indicator because the province let its approval lapse.

The suspension of the southern province’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) took place in October (link in Chinese) after several weak readings of the indicator added to concerns that China’s exports were flagging amid the trade war with the U.S. Until October, Guangdong’s Department of Industry and Information Technology had released the survey every month for seven straight years.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement (link in Chinese) on Tuesday that it ordered the suspension because the department failed to apply for a new approval to conduct the surveys after the old one expired. It also criticized the province’s statistics bureau for jointly releasing the PMI without seeking its approval.

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Cars are manufactured in Guangzhou, Guangdong provicne on July 15, 2017. Photo: VCG

When the NBS announced the suspension, it said that the Guangdong Department of Industry and Information Technology would be allowed to resume surveying for the PMI once it received approval from the provincial statistics bureau. It added that the indicator would be allowed to be released “at the right time.”

However, the NBS did not mention when an approval would be granted — nor did it mention the recent sluggish readings of the regional PMI.

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Since July, Washington has imposed additional tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports for alleged unfair trade policies and technology theft. Beijing has retaliated with new levies on $110 billion of U.S. goods. Overall, each side has imposed charges on half of its annual imports from the other.

The trade war has taken a toll on the export hub of Guangdong, which boasts the largest provincial economy in China. In August, its manufacturing PMI fell below 50, the dividing line that separates expansion from contraction, for the first time in 30 months. Economists attributed the drop to the trade dispute. From May to September, the monthly reading of the indicator was lower than that of the national index.

Guangdong contributes around a quarter of China’s overall exports. For the first 10 months of this year, it exported 3.47 trillion yuan ($503.2 billion) worth of goods, according to the local statistics bureau (link in Chinese). Over the period, China exported 13.35 trillion yuan in goods.

As China’s biggest provincial economy and one of the world’s most important manufacturing centers, Guangdong’s economy is considered a barometer for the country’s economy, the province said in 2011 (link in Chinese) when launching its PMI.

Contact reporter Liu Jiefei (jiefeiliu@caixin.com) and Lin Jinbing (jinbinglin@caixin.com)

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