On April 16, Beijing's National Bureau of Statistics announced that the Chinese economy grew 6.1% in the first quarter of this year. Analysts around the world hailed the number as "encouraging" and said it was a sign that the worst had passed for China. "The recovery has begun," declared Ken Peng of Citigroup.
Not so fast, Mr. Peng. In reality, it will take months to determine what really happened during the first three months of this year, but the gross domestic product figure appears much too high when we look at other statistics for the same period. In short, Chinese officials, after a brief flirtation with honesty in the beginning of last year, are evidently going back to fakery when it comes to the production of economic statistics.
As an initial matter, it would help if Beijing's numbers were internally consistent. At a time when China was supposedly chalking up robust growth, other indicators were pointing downward. Exports, for instance, were collapsing. They dropped 17.5% in January, 25.7% in February and 17.1% in March.
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