China targets economic data chief in corruption inquiry

Wang Baoan under investigation by Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog

The recently installed head of China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Wang Baoan, is being investigated for "severe disciplinary violation", according to the Communist Party's top anti-graft watchdog.

There have long been question marks over the accuracy of Chinese statistics, as some analysts feel the data is presented in a way that ensures the world's second largest economy always appears in a positive light. The inquiry into Mr Wang is unlikely to ease those concerns.

“Severe disciplinary violation” is usually a euphemism for graft and very few people are ever found innocent once an investigation begins.

Mr Wang (52), is the latest senior Communist Party official to fall foul of President Xi Jinping's swingeing crackdown on corruption among cadres.

Mr Wang took over as head of the NBS in April last year, having earlier been deputy finance minister. Hours earlier, he gave a press briefing on the economy, which is currently experiencing its slowest level of growth in a quarter of a century.

The anti-corruption campaign has netted some very high profile cadres, including senior Communist Party members such as former standing committee member and security czar Zhou Yongkang, as well as top brass of the People's Liberation Army and many executives from State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

Earlier this month, a former vice public security minister, Li Dongsheng, was jailed for 15 years for corruption offences.

The corruption inquiry has trained its sights on financial industry figures since the poor performance of the stock markets last summer saw mainland Chinese equity markets lose nearly a third of their value in three weeks.

The markets had a bad start to the year, while the Chinese yuan currency has also struggled in the early weeks of the year.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing