No accounting for China's cadres


There is a long history in China of local government officials putting a gloss on data so as not to anger the central leadership.

During Mao Zedong’s disastrous attempt at agricultural reform, the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s in which at least 20 million died of starvation, one problem was that frightened cadres in the provinces were sending false information to the central government to make things look good.

Different sums

China’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP) hit 51.9 trillion yuan (€6.2 trillion) last year, which gives a growth rate of 7.8 per cent for the year – the slowest in 13 years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Compare this to the latest economic output figures for the sum of all its provinces, however, and you have a different sum.

The data from the provinces came in at 57.69 trillion yuan. That’s a gap of nearly 5.8 trillion renminbi.

The China Youth Daily says the disparity occurs because cadres are rewarded with promotion and bonuses for achieving high growth.

Government analysts concede that gaps occur, and said national accounting often eliminates repeated calculations made by local governments.

Zhu Baoliang, an economist at the State Information Centre, a think tank under the auspices of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the central government is aware local governments can tend to inflate data.

For the record, 24 regions have set their growth target for 2013 at about 10 per cent or more, and seven have targeted less than 10 per cent, one more than in 2012. The government expects about 8 per cent.