The press conference to announce China’s annual economic statistics is always an Orwellian affair in which bad news is given a positive spin and good news is entirely thanks to the leadership of the Communist Party Central Committee.

This year’s event, announcing the slowest growth rate in 24 years, included a less subtle pitch to the media than usual. In the midst of a soliloquy on the improving quality of growth and the ongoing rebalancing of the economy, China’s genial statistician-in-chief Ma Jiantang paused to take a breath and address the assembled journalists directly. Read more

In a private meeting with the US Ambassador to China in 2007, provincial Communist Party secretary Li Keqiang described his country’s GDP figures as “man-made” and unreliable.

To get a good idea of what was happening to the economy in his province of Liaoning, Li said he preferred to focus on three alternative indicators: electricity consumption, volume of rail cargo and the amount of loans disbursed.

All other figures, and especially GDP statistics, were “for reference only”, Li told the Ambassador, with a broad smile on his face. Read more

Rumours that China’s long-serving central bank governor will soon be replaced have been swirling around Beijing for the past couple of weeks as the country’s leaders debate the extent of the current slowdown and the appropriate response.

Zhou Xiaochuan, the urbane, English-speaking veteran head of the People’s Bank of China, has been dogged by talk of his imminent political demise throughout his long career. Read more

With the benefit of hindsight it is always easy to identify the signs of an impending crisis.

Today it seems perfectly obvious that high-profile loss-making pet food websites will eventually go bust and that giving mortgages to people who cannot pay them back is not a sustainable business model.

Along with such leading indicators of looming disaster I would add another – the conversion of bearish commentators and economists into newly-minted optimists. Read more

Analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch think that China will experience its “Bear Stearns moment” on Friday, when the country will probably see as its first ever bond default.

That is a bold, attention-seeking call that is also patently ridiculous. Read more

Everything in China is political, even when it might not be.

A series of seemingly unrelated corruption scandals in China all share a common thread that has got the political class in Beijing very excited and boosted speculation that an elite power struggle is under way within the ruling Communist party.

The connections seem tenuous at first but spend enough time in the Byzantine world of Chinese politics and the logic starts to appear compelling. Read more

Nobel laurate Mo Yan 2013What is a Nobel Prize worth in the Beijing property market? Not very much if Nobel-winning Chinese author Mo Yan’s experience is anything to go by.

Chinese media reports say Mo (pictured) has bought an apartment on the far outskirts of the Chinese capital that they estimate will have cost him about half his Nobel prize money of $1.2m. Read more

Rat meat disguised as mutton, fake pharmaceuticals, entire replica Apple stores – China has seen almost every scam imaginable. But in the latest scandal unearthed by Chinese police the pirates have started to intrude into people’s love lives.

In a nationwide crackdown the authorities have arrested 37 people on suspicion of manufacturing nearly 5m fake brand-name condoms and selling them to unwitting consumers through supermarkets, pharmacies and sex shops across the country. Read more

More than a quarter of US companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in China say they have had trade secrets stolen or compromised through cyber-attacks on their China operations, adding weight to US accusations that Beijing is behind numerous corporate espionage attacks. Read more

The death of Hugo Chávez this week has deprived Venezuela of a controversial and charismatic leader and left it with a mountain of debt to China.

With an election scheduled to be held within a month, many are inevitably wondering whether Venezuela’s Beijing bankers are going to continue to fund El Comandante’s successors. Read more

As the seven men who will lead China for the next five years walked out onto the stage of the Great Hall of the People last Thursday, stock market traders with a sense for politics swung into action.

Less than two hours after Zhang Gaoli, the new seventh-ranked member of the Communist Party of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, stood in front of the popping of flash bulbs, Hong Kong-listed shares of Xinyi Glass had leapt more than six per cent. Read more

Wenzhou’s low end manufacturers are struggling with tightening credit and rising costs. Are problems in the eastern city a litmus test for the rest of China?

The European Union’s top officials should have been sitting on a Chinese high-speed train on Tuesday morning, zipping between Beijing and the port city of Tianjin for an annual dialogue with their Chinese counterparts.

Instead the conference was postponed at the last minute and Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso were stuck in Brussels trying to hammer out a deal to save the eurozone. Read more

The winner of the Confucius peace prize, 2010

The 2010 winner

The award of the second annual “Confucius Peace Prize” – a Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize that was inaugurated last year – has been cancelled in a cloud of acrimony this year, no doubt leaving nominees such as Vladimir Putin and Bill Gates bitterly disappointed. Read more

Coming up with big ideas for countries to work together to make the world a better place is what the president of the World Bank is supposed to do and Robert Zoellick is certainly fulfilling this part of his job description.

One of his big ideas is to facilitate the relocation of low-paid manufacturing jobs from China, the undisputed factory of the world, to Africa, where China has been accused by some of a neo-colonial grab for natural resources. Read more

Despite three decades of market reforms, the Chinese government still clings to some elements of its centrally planned past.

Beijing is particularly fond of its strategic commodity reserves, which hold everything from frozen pork to copper and allow the state to dictate prices for raw materials deemed sensitive or strategically important. One item on the long list is white sugar.  Read more

An employee at the General Electric Co. healthcare unit's production facility works with medical X-ray devices in Beijing, China, on Friday, July 22, 2011. In a sign of the growing importance of fast-growing emerging markets, GE Healthcare has decided to move the global headquarters of its 100 year old X-ray business from Waukesha, Wisconsin, to Beijing, China.

OK, so the move only involves shifting four actual employees and will not result in any layoffs in the Wisconsin office but the four relocated employees are probably the most important ones in the unit – the general manager, CMO, CFO and vice-president for HR. Read more

Falun Gong banknotes - click to enlargeBanned since 1999 and considered an evil cult by China’s ruling Communist Party, the Falun Gong spiritual movement has learnt to be creative in getting its message out to the Chinese people.

In past years the group – which combines elements of Buddhism, mystic Taoism and qigong breathing exercises – has hijacked television stations and distributed flyers in secret on the street. But lately it has turned to the thing that underpins China’s booming economy: the Rmb banknote. Read more

Bullet train in ChinaChina’s controversial new bullet train connection between the mega-cities of Beijing and Shanghai hit its first major speed bump on Sunday, just 10 days after the service opened to the public.

At least 19 high-speed trains heading south from Beijing were delayed on Sunday evening, some by more than two hours, after a power failure on one stretch of track caused by bad weather, rail authorities said. Read more

As China’s top Communists gathered Friday morning on the stage beneath a giant hammer and sickle in the Great Hall of the People there was one very conspicuous absentee.

Former Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin (pictured) has been present at almost all major ceremonial events since he handed the country’s reins to his successor, Hu Jintao, in 2003. Read more