China Center Quick Note: The Missing Tea Leaves
The Conference Board uses cookies to improve our website, enhance your experience, and deliver relevant messages and offers about our products. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this site is provided in our cookie policy. For more information on how The Conference Board collects and uses personal data, please visit our privacy policy. By continuing to use this Site or by clicking "OK", you consent to the use of cookies. 

China Center Quick Note: The Missing Tea Leaves

This members-only China Center QuickNote examines perennial data gap issues in China, and, more recently, the trend of disappearing data. The note provides much needed context about the history, political framework and utility of data publication in China. 

The key takeaways are as follows:

  • The paucity and inconsistency of economic, industry and societal data presents a unique business planning challenge for MNCs operating in China.
  • Amidst increasing economic stress, some important data has become suspiciously “unavailable”, and concerns about data quality have increased. A recent New York Times article brought significant attention to the subject (
  • While official data publication methodologies are arguably improving, data availability is not – indeed, the reverse is occurring. As such, the proverbial “tea leaves” are becoming increasingly difficult to read.
  • MNC business planners in China are well advised to: (1) invest as needed to fully understand the issues behind metrics critical to their business in China; (2) put in the required diligence to assess data quality; and (3) systematically gather the qualitative and tangential inputs and insights necessary to fill data gaps in order to make the best possible “judgment calls.”