08/29/2018, 17.01
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Chinese economy grows on fake stats

National and provincial growth data do not ad up. “In an authoritarian system there is definitely an incentive for statistics officials to publish data that will please the government,” says an economist. Growth figures do not consider the devaluation of the yuan.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More and more economists and experts are warning that the statistical data about China’s economic growth simply do not add up. The figures provided by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) appear inaccurate.

In July, profits from industrial enterprises with more than 20 million yuan (US.9 million) in revenues rose 16.2 per cent year-on-year, this according to NBS.

But following the devaluation of the Chinese currency to cope with the trade war with the United States,  the yuan was down this year (6.6247 per dollar in June) over last.

As a result, cumulatively, profits grew 17.1 per cent year-on-year in the first seven months, according to the official data, but fell 8.1 per cent in absolute terms.

It is very likely the NBS lowered last year’s base figures to make this year’s profit growth rate from industrial firms higher in percentage terms, an economist said.

The NBS analyses samples of firms. For some critics, the samples used are favour better performing firms, and the revisions in the samples used are not made public.

The "rigged" numbers concern large industrial firms, retail sales, electricity consumption and coal output.

One of the most notorious examples is the long-standing problem with the country’s gross domestic product figures, where the combined provincial figures do not tally with the NBS’s national total.

“The statistical system is target-driven, so if consumer spending is targeted to grow at 10 per cent, say, then the statistics collectors make adjustments in order to reach 10 per cent,” said Anne Stevenson-Yang, co-founder of J Capital Research.

“That might [cause the NBS to] change the number of companies being sampled, change the standards for inclusion in the samples," she told the South China Morning Post.

“In an authoritarian system there is definitely an incentive for statistics officials to publish data that will please the government,” said Carsten Holz, professor of economics from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

“At the same time, however, economic policy that is based on unreliable data can only be deficient and thus leads to outcomes that will not please the government.”

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