ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics
Welcome to the Club – On the Accuracy of
Growth Forecasts for China
Forecasts for the Chinese economy are often seen as unreliable. This impedes a proper
assessment of the country’s course, and given that China is the world’s second-largest economy,
it also has implications for international projections. This article examines the accuracy of real
GDP forecasts by three international forecasters and two German forecasters over the period
1991-2015. While forecasters had considerable difﬁ culties in tracking the large upswings in China
in the 1990s and early 2000s, they were quite accurate for the period 2004-2015, particularly
when comparing the IMF’s forecasts for China with its forecasts for the United States or
Germany. The forecast accuracy found in the Chinese Five-Year Plans is also surprisingly high.
Ullrich Heilemann, Leipzig University, Germany;
and Fraunhofer Center for International Manage-
ment and Knowledge Economy, Leipzig, Germany.
In the winter of 2015-16, China reported 6.8% growth of its
real gross domestic product (GDP) for 2015, and forecasters
expected 6.5% growth in 2016. However, after years of dou-
ble-digit growth rates, worrying signals from major indicators
and the widespread belief that Chinese data was manipulat-
ed and forecasts were unreliable led to increased fears that
China’s economy would face “a hard landing” in 2016, which
would likely trigger another worldwide recession.
has its limits as a guide for the future, but it was hard to un-
derstand why these fears were not examined in light of the
record of economic forecasts for China.
The accuracy of forecasts for China has recently gained in-
creased attention, particularly since the Great Recession
(2007-2010) and primarily for forecasts by international or-
* Thanks for helpful comments go to Philipp Böing and Roland Döhrn.
For skilful research assistance, I thank Mirja Hälbig.
1 The Economist: Fighting the next recession. Unfamiliar ways for-
ward, 20 February 2016, available at https://www.economist.com/
sider-some-radical-approaches-tackling-next. Simulations using the
National Institute Global Econometric Model, a quarterly structural
macroeconometric model of the world economy, suggested that a
one-time decline of China’s real GDP by three per cent – about the
decline that China experienced in the Great Recession – would re-
duce world GDP by 0.9 percentage points, that of the euro area by
1.5 percentage points and that of Germany by 2.5 percentage points
(three-year averages). K.-J. Gern, P. Hauber, G. Potjagailo: Aus-
wirkungen einer harten Landung in China, in: Wirtschaftsdienst, Vol.
95, No. 10, 2015, pp. 719-720.
ganisations or by Asian forecasters.
Similar studies of the
Chinese economy by European forecasters, however, are still
rare. This paper examines the accuracy of recent growth pre-
dictions for China by international as well as European and
German forecasters, primarily from the perspective of a fore-
cast user. Issues related to the quality of Chinese data are
The analysis focuses on forecasts by three
international institutions – the International Monetary Fund
(IMF), the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-
operation (OECD) and the European Commission (EC) – and
two German institutions – the Joint Diagnosis (JD), a gov-
ernment-sponsored group of ﬁ ve major German economic
research institutes, and the Council of Economic Experts
(CEE), a major government advisory institution.
produced by Chinese institutions such as the Chinese Acad-
2 See, for example, H.O. Stekler, H. Zhang: An evaluation of Chinese
economic forecasts, in: Journal of Chinese Economic and Business
Studies, Vol. 11, No. 4, 2013, pp. 251-259; Q. Chen, M. Costantini,
B. Deschamps: How accurate are professional forecasts in Asia?,
in: International Journal of Forecasting, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2016, pp. 154-
167; P. Higgins, T. Zha, K. Zhong: Forecasting China’s economic
growth and inﬂ ation, Working Paper 2016-7, Federal Reserve Bank of
Atlanta, July 2016; Independent Evaluation Ofﬁ ce of the International
Monetary Fund (IEO): IMF Forecasts: Process, Quality, and Country
Perspectives, 2014; N. Pain, C. Lewis, T.T. Dang, J. Jin, P. Rich-
ardson: OECD Forecasts During and After the Financial Crisis: A
Post Mortem, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No.
3 In contrast to widely held beliefs, in a recent wide-ranging study of
ofﬁ cial Chinese GDP statistics, Holtz found few statistical anomalies.
See C.A. Holtz: The quality of China’s GDP statistics, in: China Eco-
nomic Review, Vol. 30, 2014, pp. 309-338.
4 For the IMF forecasts, see http://www.imf.org/external/ns/
cs.aspx?id=29. The OECD forecasts are available at http://www.
oecd.org/eco/economicoutlook.htm. The European Commission’s
forecasts are available at ec.europa.eu/economy_ﬁ nance/publica-
tions/european_economy/forecasts/index_en.htm. For the JD and
CEE forecasts, see http://www.rwi-essen.de/forschung-und-bera-
schaftsdiagnose. Actuals are from IMF, WEO database, available at