This Is How China's Regions Fare in the Fake GDP Data Stakes

(Bloomberg) -- When it comes to the reliability of their economic data, not all of China’s regions are equal.

After a spate of admissions to fabricating data, doubts about the accuracy of provincial-level figures are throwing a shadow on the remarkable stability of national output.

As a result, analysts are crunching the numbers again, including Shanghai-based Meng Xiangjuan and Li Tong at SWS Research Ltd.

Chongqing -- a megapolis in the west that has province-like status -- probably has the least credible economic data among all the nation’s regions, considering the reported fiscal revenues and debt, their research suggests.

Click here for more on the remarkable stability of China GDP data

Hebei province, which neighbors Beijing, has much more convincing data, according to their analysis. The capital itself ranks near the bottom of the list in reliability.

Here’s SWS’s scoring of the credibility of local data -- the lower the score, the better the data:

ProvinceScoreProvinceScoreProvinceScoreProvinceScore
Hebei11Shanghai21Fujian27Gansu35
Jiangxi11Anhui21Sichuan29Beijing39
Shaanxi12Jilin22Hubei30Tianjin40
Liaoning14Ningxia23Heilongjiang31Shanxi40
Zhejiang16Henan24Xinjiang31Jiangsu45
Hunan17Guangxi24Qinghai33Chongqing46
Shandong18Yunnan25Hainan34
Guangdong20Inner Mongolia27Guizhou34

The analysis rests on spotting the difference between local authorities’ reporting of fiscal revenue before and after a 2016 tax reform that made it harder to inflate income. A second factor focuses on what local governments say about their debt obligations, with some potentially under-reporting what they owe.

The head of the national statistics bureau said Thursday the government is is examining cases of fake economic figures produced by some regions, though fraud hasn’t impaired the quality of national statistics. 

Inner Mongolia and Liaoning are confirmed to have fudged data in recent years, and on Friday Tianjin’s Binhai New Area -- a zone intended to resemble the development of Pudong in Shanghai -- said that it had revised down 2016 output by around one third.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Tian Chen

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