China cracks down on fraudulent provincial growth figures

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BEIJING – China’s National Bureau of Statistics will take control of regional GDP growth data because exaggerated figures from the provinces hamper economic policymaking, an official said in an interview published Monday.

The national and provincial governments have long issued contradictory GDP statistics: the cumulative provincial output far exceeds the national output measured by the NBS. 

The NBS’s deputy head Li Xiaochao said it would publish both regional and national GDP figures starting in 2019, according to the interview published on the bureau’s website. 

“The gap between collected regional and national GDP data is still not small,” Li said, noting the problem made it hard to determine regional trends and implement macroeconomic controls. 

“It also affects the credibility of government statistics,” he said.

Local bureaucrats’ promotions have long been tied to economic performance, giving them an incentive to falsify data in hopes of improving their chances of career advancement, officials admit.

As a result China has long struggled with inaccurate data. In recent years it has publicized a growing number of cases of falsified economic statistics.

In January the governor of the northeastern province of Liaoning made a rare admission that his government had falsified data from 2011 to 2014. 

In 2007 Li Keqiang, who is now Premier, told the US ambassador that “GDP figures are ‘man-made’ and therefore unreliable”, according to State Department cables released by Wikileaks. 

Li, who was Liaoning’s party secretary at the time, said he used other economic measures to get an insight into China’s economic growth, noting the GDP statistics are “for reference only”.



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