Chinese provinces are, in some cases, equivalent in size to major European countries and run with a degree of fiscal autonomy. The southern province of Guangdong, for example, has the same population size as Germany. However, provincial budgets have been classified as state secrets until now and this is the first time that China has disclosed the level of local government debt.
Mr Liu said the ratio of debt to disposable revenues at some local governments was over 100pc and in the highest case it was 365pc. . .
Victor Shih, a professor at Northwestern University in the United States, believes the sum in 2009 was 11.4 trillion yuan, equivalent to 71pc of China's nominal GDP.
Mr Shih has warned that local governments have also succeeded in rapidly funnelling large amounts of debt off their balance sheet and into public-private investment vehicles.