Why would a figure like 1.33 percent stand out in a country where most things are measured in terms of sheer mass?
It might not seem like much, but 1.33 percent is potentially enough to balance out all the big numbers and constant record setting - when it is about progress in environmental protection.
Last week, officials from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) delivered a report on the economy's environmental performance.
They said that last year, the country's energy consumption per unit of GDP - the amount of energy used to deliver every 10,000 yuan of GDP - registered its first decline in three years - a negative change of 1.33 percent from 2005.
In other words, in 2006, for every 10,000 yuan of GDP, China used an amount of energy equivalent to a little less than 1.21 tons of standard coal. The figure for 2005 was 1.22 tons.
Does that mean the economy of the world's largest developing country is getting somewhat greener? The NBS did not say. But, as the figures show, the country is making actual, albeit incremental, progress.
Even though the country missed its target of a 4 percent decline in energy consumption per unit of GDP - and not by a small margin - nothing could be more valuable than real progress. The key message is that the economy can continue to grow, and indeed can even race ahead at an unprecedented pace, while still saving energy.
For an economy that relies heavily on its manufacturing prowess, at a time when millions of families are building new houses, buying new home appliances and using more electricity, any bit of progress, even if it is just a 0.1 percent decline in energy use, would be a hard-won victory.
It is difficult to adorn statistics with romantic connotations like "Green GDP", a phrase that environment officials tend to like, but figures are much more significant than words - regardless of whether they appear in an official speech or in government plans.
Another important feature of the NBS report is that it could point the way to what can be done, and in which areas of the economy, to further reduce energy consumption.
The national champion is Beijing. Its record is 0.76 tons of standard coal per 10,000 yuan of GDP. Next comes Guangdong Province, which checked in with 0.77 tons of standard coal. Guangdong is the heart of China's southern manufacturing belt, which is centered in the Pearl River Delta.
But where are Jiangsu, Shandong, Zhejiang and Fujian - all the coastal manufacturing centers? They should have made as much progress as Guangdong, if not as much as the national capital, which has been busy preparing to host the 2008 Olympics and closing down many inner-city sources of pollution.
That those places are still lagging behind Guangdong reflects a common problem with their economies - namely too much labor-intensive manufacturing and too little spending on technology.
Take Zhejiang for example. The province boasts thousands of small - and some not so small - export companies. But their spending on research and development is equivalent to only 0.45 percent of their sales, as figures reported in the Chinese-language press show.
Their cities, perhaps even including the outskirts of Shanghai, are still heavy with manufacturing and do not have enough services.
Ask them to save energy? Maybe they are still not ready.
(China Daily 07/16/2007 page4)