Coronavirus has forced Beijing to pause in its relentless pursuit of GDP. Its people, and the environment, will benefit
For years, GDP growth targets have been the be-all and end-all of China’s economy. They were the imperfect but convenient measure of economic expansion and prosperity, the ultimate economic objective for the central government, and the yardstick of achievement for local governments.
Officials at various levels – provincial, county and city – competed in a tournament of who could generate the highest GDP growth rates, and who could expand their local economies the fastest. Some transformed their municipalities into export hubs, some into manufacturing powerhouses, while others mined coal and constructed housing. It mattered less how it was achieved – the goal was to meet, and to exceed, these targets.