Niu Wenyuan's 'quality index' measures the economy not just by size, but by sustainability, social equality and ecological impact.

Of all the efforts to improve China‘s environment, there are probably none as arcane and potentially important as the statistical re-evaluation being pioneered by Niu Wenyuan.

This senior economist and government adviser is trying to clean up his polluted country one data set at a time and, in the process, wean political leaders off their obsession with GDP growth. It is an uphill task. Eight years ago, Niu tried and failed to introduce a “green GDP”, which would have factored environmental costs into measurements of China’s economic progress.

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