In an interview with the American ambassador when he was still the provincial governor of Liaoning in 2007, Mr Li said the GDP figures are "man-made" and therefore "unreliable".
Instead, he said he looked at three things:
1) electricity consumption, which was up 10 percent in Liaoning last year;
2) volume of rail cargo, which is fairly accurate because fees are charged for each unit of weight; and
3) amount of loans disbursed, which also tends to be accurate given the interest fees charged.
"By looking at these three figures, Li said he can measure with relative accuracy the speed of economic growth. All other figures, especially GDP statistics, are 'for reference only,' he said smiling."