Further adding to doubts about the health of China’s economy, statistics in Inner Mongolia and the northeastern province of Jilin have been found to be problematic, according to recent investigation by the Communist Party’s anti-corruption agency.
Faked data was discovered in some firms and regions, according to a statement from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
The statement did not elaborate further on the details, but raised such issues as a lack of the “four awarenesses,” promotion of corrupt officials, and failure to fully implement major decisions issued from the central authorities.
It is common for local officials to overstate their economic growth to gain a favorable report, which is tied to their career progression. Despite repeated stress on data credibility, profit target remains to be the key indicator in reviewing their performance.
Inner Mongolia and Jilin reported a growth of 7.2 and 6.9 percent last year, respectively.
Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank in Singapore, sees the news as a powerful political signal. The statement suggests that data falsification—something very common among Chinese officials— could be treated the same as violation of party discipline, Zhou told Financial Times.
“In China, nobody took fake data seriously before,” he said.
Earlier this year, officials in Liaoning, a neighboring province to Jilin and Inner Mongolia, were found to have falsified data from 2011 to 2014. The exaggerated profit accounted for nearly one fifth of its overall income, which reached a peak of 23 percent in 2014, according to iFeng.
Meng Yuanxin, a researcher for New Mainland Public Institute, said that fabricating data was a widespread phenomenon. “To some degree, China’s financial data is only normal when there’s fake data,” Meng said. “It would be odd otherwise” Meng told Radio Free Asia.
“Officials produce figures, figures produce officials,” he added, referring to the practice of inflating merits to gain promotion.
Jilin and Inner Mongolia both suffer from economic slowdown. Inner Mongolia, a major coal supplier, saw demand dwindle as sustainable energy development became more prominent across China. Jilin, the manufacturing base for China’s automobile industry, has also felt sharp contractions.
Authorities in Jilin and Inner Mongolia are notably associated with Politburo Standing Committee members Zhang Dejiang and Liu Yunshan, two powerful political rivals of the Xi Jinping administration.