Lucky number

Anyone remember when precisely did Beijing Olympics start? The right answer is August 8, 2008 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8pm. The reason being that 8 (pronounced ‘bā’) is a very auspicious number in Chinese tradition as it sounds very close to the word for “prosperity” (发财, pronounced ‘fā’).

Now, the fun thing is that last month Premier Wen Jiabao announced that the Party will set a target for China’s 2009 GDP growth at – you guessed it – 8%. You can read this article for more thorough discussion of China’s long history with 8% GDP growth target, and in the past it has substantially underestimated the actual performance. However, aiming for auspicious 8% this year is nothing short of lunacy (here are some charts to put things in perspective – pay attention to the industrial production one in center). Or it simply goes to illustrate a principle for estimating the economic performance on the grounds of political wishful thinking – an approach that is by no means confined to Chinese politics, although probably honed to perfection there.


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