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GDP growth in China 1952-2011
Sharp increase in GDP during the reform period
GDP rose from Rmb362.4 billion in 1978, at the start of the reform period, to Rmb30 trillion in 2008 (both figures at current prices).

Structural change in the Chinese economy
 during the reform period

The share of primary industry in GDP has fallen from 28% in 1978, at the beginning of the reform period, to 11% in 2008.

This fall occurred because agricultural output grew more slowly than output of other economic sectors.
At the same time, the share of tertiary industry grew from 24% to 40% as services sectors proliferated.
The share of the secondary sector has stayed level at around 48% over the period as a whole.

GDP Index in real terms

GDP Rmb billion at current prices    GDP per head Rmb Real annual growth rate (%)

1952

100.0

67.9 119

1953

115.6

82.4 142 15.6

1954

120.5

85.9 144 4.2

1955

128.6

91.0 150 6.8

1956

147.9

102.8 165 15.0

1957

155.5

106.8 168 5.1

1958

188.6

130.7 200 21.3

1959

205.2

143.9 216 8.8

1960

204.6

145.7 218 -0.3

1961

148.7

122.0 185 -27.3

1962

140.4

114.9 173 -5.6

1963

154.7

123.3 181 10.2

1964

183.0

145.4 208 18.3

1965

214.2

171.6 240 17.0

1966

237.1

186.8 254 10.7

1967

223.6

177.4 235 -5.7

1968

214.4

172.3 222 -4.1

1969

250.6

193.8 243 16.9

1970

299.3

225.3 275 19.4

1971

320.2

242.6 288 7.0

1972

332.4

251.8 292 3.8

1973

358.6

272.1 309 7.9

1974

366.9

279.0 310 2.3

1975

398.8

299.7 327 8.7

1976

392.4

294.4 316 -1.6

1977

422.2

320.2 339 7.6

1978

471.6

362.4 379 11.7

1979

507.5

403.8 417 7.6

1980

547.1

451.8 460 7.8

1981

575.5

486.2 489 5.2

1982

629.0

529.5 525 9.1

1983

698.9

593.5 580 10.9

1984

805.8

717.1 692 15.2

1985

912.1

896.4 853 13.5

1986

989.7

1,020.2 956 8.8

1987

1,103.5

1,196.3 1,104 11.6

1988

1,228.2

1,492.8 1,355 11.3

1989

1,279.8

1,690.9 1,512 4.1

1990

1,333.5

1,854.8 1,634 3.8

1991

1,454.9

2,161.8 1,879 9.2

1992

1,660.0

2663.8 2,287 14.2

1993

1,877.5

3,463.4 2,939 13.5

1994

2,114.0

4,675.9 3,923 12.6

1995

2,304.3

5,847.8 4,854 10.5

1996

2,530.1

6,788.5 5,576 9.6

1997

2,745.2

7,446.3 6,054 8.8

1998

2,959.3

7,834.5 6,038 7.8

1999

3,169.4

8,206.8 7,159 7.1

2000

3,422.9

8,946.8 7,858 8.0

2001

10,965.5 8,622 8.3

2002

12,033.3 9,398 9.1

2003

13,582.3 10,542 10.0

2004

15,987.8 12,336 10.1

2005

18,386.8 14,040 9.9

2006

21,087.1 16,084 11.1

2007

24,661.9 11.4

2008

31,404.5 9.6

2009

34,506.9

8.7
2010 40,201.2 10.4
2011

1st 3 qtrs

32,069.2 9.4

 

How China's GDP rose and fell from 1952 to 2009

1953 Hyperinflation conquered; civil war and land reform ended: GDP up 15.6% in real terms.

1958-59 So-called "Great Leap Forward" devastated agriculture: result was falling GDP in 1960-62. (Figures for 1958-59 highly suspect, as the statistical network was largely destroyed in the "Leap", when absurdly high increases in output were reported by frightened local officials.)

1963-66 Partial restoration of market economy in the countryside promoted faster growth of agriculture.

1967-68 Production undermined by the so-called "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution", that was initiated by Mao in mid-1966 and effectively ended by People's Liberation Army intervention in 1968.

1969-70 High growth rates followed the restoration of order after the "cultural revolution".

 1976 Widespread earthquakes, including the worst ever at Tangshan, hit industrial centres, while agricultural output was hit by drought; policy paralysis resulted from the anti-Deng campaign, followed by Mao's death and the arrest of the Gang of Four. GDP fell.

1978-1982 Smashing the communes and restoring family farming jacked up agricultural (especially grain) output.

1983-85 Double-digit real GDP growth accompanied the first wave of foreign investment into China, and non-state enterprises started to develop.

1989-91 Growth slowed after the government braked the overheating economy following an aborted effort at wholesale price reform in 1988 which resulted in panic buying and runaway inflation. Price stability was achieved by cancelling large fixed investment projects, slowing domestic demand. Foreign investment fell off after the Beijing Massacre of June 1989.

1992 Deng Xiaoping's Southern Tour at the beginning of the year massively boosted foreign direct investment inflows into coastal areas and started a wave of government investment in Shanghai. Record trade and GDP growth and inflation followed.

1993 Zhu Rongji appointed to rein in the overheating economy, this time more selectively than in 1989-91. Growth rates subsided gradually in subsequent years, producing a so-called "soft landing". During the 1990s, living standards continued to rise, as evidenced by the proliferation of consumer durables, especially among the urban population. Continuing FDI inflows helped boost foreign exchange reserves to record heights in the late 1990s.

Especially after the publication of the 1998 GDP figures, economists, both in China and abroad, have raised serious doubts about the quality of China's national accounts, which appeared in the late 1990s to overstate economic growth and are now suspected of understating growth. This may be because the statistical system tends to overestimate output at the trough of the cycle and underestimate output at the peak.

However, the country's first production census discovered at the end of 2005 that GDP has recently been grossly underestimated as a result of a failure to take into account the rapid growth of the services sector. As a  result, growth rates for 2003-2005 are now recorded at around 10% per year in real terms.

  Despite efforts to cool the overheating economy, the officially recorded GDP growth rate was 11.4% in 2007.

In 2008 the global economic crisis began to reduce China's growth rate. In the face of forecasts that this might drop below the rate at which school leavers can be absorbed by the growing economy (7%-8%) the government decided to pump Rmb 4 trillion into the economy in the form of an economic stimulus package consisting largely of investment in fixed infrastucture and human capital.

The stimulus succeeded in preventing a dramatic fall in GDP growth in 2009 and in providing a sustained recovery in 2010, when the real annual GDP growth rate rose to 10.4%.

With stagnation in China's major markets in 2011, GDP growth is expected to subside to around 9.2% by the end of the year.

As global conditions continue to deteriorate in late 2011, it seems likely that economic growth will fall to around 8% in 2012. The government does not have the option of returning to stimulus on the massive scale of 2008-2009 and has to be careful not to stoke inflation.

Source: National Bureau of Statistics, China Statistical Yearbooks; National Bureau of Statistics plan report; National Bureau of Statistics communiqués.
Last page update: 5 November 2011.