Fact-Checking Trump’s Claims About China’s ‘Worst Year’

Source: By Linda Qiu, New York Times • Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019

What Trump said

“We have taken in tens of billions of dollars in tariffs from China. Prices have not gone up, or they’ve gone up very little. China has paid for most of that, and I say paid for all of it. China has now had the worst year they’ve had in 57 years.”


First, the tariffs placed on Chinese imports have raised $27 billion, as of Aug. 28, and a number of recent studies have shown that the costs are borne by American companies and consumers, not by China. Analysts have estimated that the trade war would cost the average American family about $460 over a year.

As for China’s “worst year,” President Trump is most likely referring to economic growth. China’s gross domestic product grew 6.2 percent from April to June compared with a year earlier, the slowest rate since 1992. That’s 27 years, not 57 years.

For context, 50 to 60 years ago, China was in the throes of the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. From 1953 to 1978, the Chinese government reported an average annual growth of 6.7 percent, though analysts have questioned the validity of that data. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that China’s economy actually grew at an annual rate of 4.4 percent in this period.

Other metrics do not show a five-decade low, either. China’s industrial production grew only 4.8 percent in July, the lowest rate since February 2002. Its currency fell to an 11-year low against the dollar in August. And the ratio of open positions to job applicants was the lowest since 2014.

Mr. Trump accurately described the slump in economic growth as the “worst in 27 years” on July 30 and at least four othertimes before he began throwing out different figures.

On Aug. 9, the president said China had experienced its worst year in 35 years. His time estimate contracted to 27 years on Aug. 18, and then increased to 54 years on Aug. 20.

“It was actually 52 or 54 years,” he then said on Aug. 21.

“Anywhere from 30 to 50 years,” according to the president on Aug. 23.

That number expanded again, to 61 years, on Friday.

“That’s a lot of years,” Mr. Trump said.