In a country where every single province frequently reports annual growth rates exceeding the national average, and the country's premier is applauded for publicly ignoring his own National Bureau of Statistics, it isn't hard to take Mark Twain's famous aphorism about "lies, damned lies and statistics" to heart as practical advice for navigating the complexities of life in China.

But since this raises the question of how anyone is supposed to know anything at all about this place we live, this week on Sinica Jeremy Goldkorn is delighted to be joined by Matthew Crabbe, author of the recent book Myth-Busting China's Numbers, who brings us a lot of delicious anecdotes on just how crazy Chinese statistics can get, along with practical advice on sorting out the reliable from the purely fantastical. And just when you would think the podcast can't get any better? That's when the surprise guest happens.

Final Note: the standalone mp3 download is here if you need it. If you've been listening to Sinica for a while you may also remember our recent interview with Sascha Matuszak about martial arts in China. As mentioned in that podcast as well as this one, Sascha is running a Kickstarter to fund a documentary video on the subject. If you're interested in checking it out or supporting the project, you can find details of the project online right here.
 said on
November 15, 2014
Hi, I've been a listener to Sinica for quite a few months now, and have also downloaded past mp3s for listening on my commute; am becoming a huge fan, greatly enjoy it! I'm at the stage now where I think I've more or less caught up to listening to the most current shows (as opposed to back issues) and so feeling a bit more comfortable to make a comment.

Damned Lies was a great podcast but I thought a really interesting personal tidbit was the hint that Matthew Crabbe was a dropout (and druggie?) before discovering Chinese, and that taking it further led to a whole career/business (if I mishead/misunderstood please forgive the offence). I just this was thought provoking in these sense of what exposure to different cultures (obviously not just Chinese, but to alien things in general) might mean in terms of opening up opportunities and avenues for people who might otherwise be hitting dead ends within a proscribed world.

One thing I wished Jeremy/Kaiser pressed a bit harder on was what he thinks of covering China but from Malaysia. He gave the positive side (seeing the wood not the trees, being able to spot differences) but I was also curious about the downsides (less in touch with a fast changing scene? seen as outsider?) and how he then deals with these (read local media?). Was interested in this simply because I also work as a research analyst looking partly at China, but out of Singapore, and have been challenged by this sort of question.

One final point - I really enjoy the Advanced Mandarin podcasts by Echo and Miao Miao. With these I've also downloaded back issues (probably about 10 or so is as far back as I went). Am generally surprised that I can understand 95% of what they are saying, since I tend to get lost listening to native newscasts... I would love to see more frequent Advanced level lessons, if this is possible.

I wonder too whether it is possible for the team to produce podcasts in Mandarin but discussing the sort of issues that Sinica deals with? Possible then speaking not with expats but with local commentators on the various issues? I realise that this might not best fit your audience, or there might be other existing podcasts that already do this. If that is the case, could you in recommendations perhaps point out some good local podcasts?

thanks and cheers,

 said on
March 29, 2015
Matthew Crabbe mentions something in this podcast that I'd like to know more about -- it sounds like "Alibaba Data Keep," a product for tracking behavior on Alibaba. But my Googling isn't producing any information about this product. Can anyone help me find out what he was referring to?

And thanks for doing this episode. As someone who does China market sizing, I found it very interesting.

Mark Lesson Studied