Ask any economist or trader over drinks, or in any other setting, what they think about Chinese economic data or financial reporting and the answer will be one and the same: it's all fake.
And it's not just skeptical outsiders who share this view: China has made it all too easy for anyone to be convinced, with reports such as this one "China Threatens Its Economists And Analysts To Only Write Bullish Reports, Or Else", and, of course "Chinese Province Admits It Fabricated Economic Data For Three Years." Apparently, China is also a master when it comes to deadpan humor and/or self-referential irony - or is merely galactically obtuse - because on Thursday China's Vice Premier, Zhang Gaoli, warned that economic statistics "must not be fabricated" and that those caught manipulating data should be punished and face consequences in their careers.
According to Xinhua, the central government requires authentic and reliable economic data to set policy, and China should have a traceable system to punish those found responsible for faking statistics, Zhang said Wednesday during a visit to the National Bureau of Statistics, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Zhang also encouraged local authorities and other agencies to better coordinate their work and enact statistical reforms.
It gets better.
Following the recent humiliation when in January it was revealed that Liaoning province had faked its fiscal revenue and other statistics from 2011 to 2014, the government was humiliated, not so much that Chinese data was fabricated data - everyone knew that was the case long ago - but that it was caught. And since the genie was officially out of the bottle, Beijing had no choice but to show a bold facade and signal that China's leaders are "attaching greater importance to data accuracy", to demonstrate to the world just how serious it is in cracking down against data manipulators.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported last month that the central government has planned steps that will "improve" the independence of data collection and reduce the influence of local governments. In other words, Beijing is trying to scapegoat provinces and regional governments, for engaging in what it itself does.
And since the data rigging will not end for the economy which always comes within 0.1% - and usually just above - of the "consensus" GDP number, we wonder if the Chinese government will be as quick to "punish" its own members once more data manipulation cases are exposed following the crackdown on "regionally" fabricated data. We doubt it.