Dongguan holds off Foshan atop GBA in 2019

We wrote last week about Foshan’s mayor being so excited at the story he had to tell regarding 2019 that he couldn’t wait for the official release of GDP data to announce Foshan had joined the trillion-yuan club. We didn’t know then just how excited he was, because he didn’t give a detailed figure. Over the weekend, he did: 1.08 trillion yuan, to be precise. That represents a sharp 8.6% growth in nominal GDP in 2019, which very nearly pushed Foshan past Dongguan for the title of fastest-growing GBA city in 2019.

Nearly, but not quite. Dongguan is estimated to have grown 7.0% in real terms, slightly faster than Foshan’s 6.8% real growth rate. So did Shenzhen – 7% – although neither city has released full details of their GDP data like Foshan’s mayor did.

Perennial rivals Dongguan and Foshan had been neck-and-neck at the end of Q3: Dongguan was ahead, growing by 7.2% over the first three quarters of the year, compared to Foshan’s 7.0%. Both eased back in Q4, dropping two basis points YoY over the last quarter, as Dongguan eased back to 7.0% and Foshan hit 6.8%. Shenzhen had been way behind at that stage, after growing just 6.6% in the first three quarters, but then it had a late surge in Q4, as it managed to somewhat tame its inflation, which had been raised by pork prices.

All three cities are managing expectations for growth in 2020. Foshan thinks it can keep going at 6.8%, while Dongguan’s target is less ambitious at just 6.3%, and Shenzhen is targeting 6.5%.

None of this has been cleared with the National Bureau of Statistics, so it is possible that the numbers might look different once they are released at the national level. China’s new reporting system for local-government GDP data goes into effect this year. Stay tuned.

Note: a previous version of this story had mistakenly calculated Foshan ahead of Dongguan, but then we realised their number was nominal GDP growth, not adjusted for inflation. Sorry.

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