While it will hardly come as a surprise to China watchers who have for years mocked China's cooked "data", overnight the state-run People's Daily reported that the severely impacted by the commodity crunch of the past 2 years rust-belt province of Liaoning fabricated fiscal numbers from 2011 to 2014, raising fresh doubts about the accuracy of China’s economic data just two days ahead of the release of China's GDP report.
City and county governments in the northwestern region committed fiscal data fraud in the period, Governor Chen Qiufa said at a meeting with provincial lawmakers Tuesday, Bloomberg adds. Not surprisingly, the fabricated economic data was meant to show a state of economic strenght with fiscal revenues inflated by at least 20%, and some other economic data were also false, the paper said, without specifying categories.
Why paint a rosier picture? The same reason as alwasy: Chen said the data were made up "because officials wanted to advance their careers." The fraud misled the central government’s judgment of Liaoning’s economic status, he said, citing a report from the National Audit Office in 2016.
The admission of fraud comes now because with growth now moderating, officials have "sought to improve the credibility of economic data" as diffusing financial risks becomes a key policy consideration, along with keeping growth ticking along at a rapid clip.
And while the outgoing Obama administration is cracking down on "fake news", Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, has said China is focusing on preventing "fake economic data" as well as increasing the quality of its statistics. Naturally, incidents such as this one will make China watchers that much more skeptical.
Fake economic data may be the least of Liaoning's worries which in recent years has seen an unprecedented purge of more than 500 deputies from its legislature Bloomberg reports. The deputies were implicated in vote buying and bribery in the first provincial-level case of its kind in the Communist Party’s almost seven-decade rule, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Former provincial party chief Wang Min, who led Liaoning from 2009 until 2015, was earlier expelled following corruption allegations by China’s top anti-graft watchdog.
As China's debt-fueled economic impulse continues, if only for a few more months, we wxpect more such instances of fake data to swim to the surface.