China has sent one of its strongest warnings against falsifying data, calling the practice “the biggest corruption in the statistical sphere” after it became a violation of Communist Party discipline.
Data fabrication was written into a revision of the party’s disciplinary regulations last month, which “greatly strengthened” the constraints to prevent and curb statistical fraud, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Monday.
Severely harmful fraudulent statistics “interfere with and mislead macro decision-making” and “damage the credibility of the party and government”, the bureau added.
China’s economic recovery momentum seemed to have slowed again in the fourth quarter compared with the previous three months, while local governments are under pressure to seek a strong start this year.
Beijing is still facing a daunting task to ensure a sustained and robust economic growth this year by resolving a property market crisis, finding new robust growth engines and alleviating job pressure.
All eyes will be on the growth target that Premier Li Qiang is set to unveil on March 5 when delivering the government work report to the National People’s Congress, and how Beijing is going to achieve it via multiple policies.
It is widely anticipated that Beijing is likely to set a target of 5 per cent economic growth for 2024.
The accuracy of China’s economic data has long been questioned, as many feel there is a gap between reality on the ground and the official figures, and Beijing has intensified efforts to crack down on data fraud in recent years amid efforts to dispel doubts.
The NBS said last month that during an inspection of six provinces in July and August, several cities and county governments were found to have falsified data or intervened in its gathering.
Chen Qiufa, the governor of the northeastern province of Liaoning province, also admitted during his government work report in 2017, following a probe by the central government, that economic data had been fabricated for four years between 2011 and 2014.
The province had once thrived as a base of heavy industry, but had lost its advantage and suffered a severe loss of talent amid China’s economic transformation.
The emphasis came as a twice-a-decade national economic census is under way, which is hoped would provide an insight into how the coronavirus pandemic influenced businesses and households, and show how they have been coping since China’s reopening at the start of 2023.
Local officials and workers should “tightly hold on to the lifeline of statistical quality”, NBS director Kang Yi urged at a work conference on the census late last month.