A relatively obscure economics professor at Renmin University in Beijing sparked a minor furore last month when he claimed a secret government research group had estimated China’s growth in gross domestic product could be as low as 1.67% in 2018 — far below the officially published rate of 6.7% for the year up to September. Most experts dismissed the speech by Xiang Songzuo as implausible, despite longstanding doubts about the reliability of China’s official GDP data. Yet although discussion of his claims was quickly scrubbed from the Chinese internet, the presentation has been viewed more than 1.2-million times on YouTube — an indication of the raw nerve Xiang touched with his doom-laden warnings. A decade ago, China played a vital role in rescuing the world economy from the financial crisis by launching an unprecedented Rmb4tn stimulus programme. Today, the fear in markets is the opposite. Already unnerved about rising rates in the US and slowing growth in Europe, many investors n...

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