ON OCTOBER 19th China reported that its economy grew by 6.7% in the third quarter. It would have been an unsurprising, reassuring headline, except that China had reported exactly the same figure for the previous quarter—and for the quarter before that. This freakish consistency invited the scorn of China’s many “data doubters”, who have long argued that it fudges its figures. China has expanded at the same pace from one quarter to the next on numerous occasions. But it has never before claimed to grow at exactly the same rate for three quarters in a row.

Has anywhere? This growth “three-peat” is not entirely without precedent. Seven other countries have reported the same growth rate for three quarters in a row, according to a database spanning 83 countries since 1993, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister company. The list includes emerging economies like Brazil, Croatia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, but also two mature economies: Austria and Spain. Indeed, Spain has performed this miracle of consistency twice. It grew by 3.1% (year-on-year) in the first three quarters of 2003 and by 4.2% in the first…Continue reading