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China Punishes Provincial Official for ‘Faking Economic Figures’

China Punishes Provincial Official for ‘Faking Economic Figures’

The Chinese Communist Party on Wednesday announced the expulsion of Zhang Jinghua, former deputy party chief of Jiangsu province, on the unusual charge of having “faked economic figures for personal promotion and meddled in market activities in violation of relevant rules.” Bloomberg News noted it is “rare for senior provincial officials to face such a charge.” Lower-ranked officials in three other provinces were hit with similar allegations by China’s National Bureau of Statistics last week. Zhang, who was party chief in the Jiangsu provincial capital of Nanjing from 2017 to 2021 before becoming deputy provincial party chief last year, has been under investigation since December. He was also accused of more prosaic acts of corruption, such as taking bribes and “seeking benefits for others in the appointment of officials.” China’s Caixin Global News described Jiangsu as a “wealthy” province and said Zhang’s “illegal gains” will be confiscated.

The state-run Global Times on Wednesday portrayed Zhang’s expulsion from the Communist Party, and subsequent prosecution, as a landmark event in China’s increasingly vigorous “clampdown on faking economic data.” According to the Global Times, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) held a “video mobilization conference” on Monday to address “runaway statistical falsification,” which the NBS concluded was “the biggest form of corruption in the sphere of statistics” faced by China. Zhang’s “rarely mentioned yet keenly watched violation” was presented as a bold movie that showed how serious the NBS crusade against “data forgery” has become. “Dozens of firms that were found to have provided untrue statistical materials have been slapped with administrative penalties by provincial statistical bureaus,” the Global Times added. As Bloomberg pointed out, China has a long-running problem with officials faking economic data to please their superiors and make themselves look better. Falsified data has forced a few provinces to revise and resubmit their economic reports. More recently, China is desperate to make its economy appear stable and resilient to its client states and foreign business partners, while evidence mounts that the latest round of coronavirus lockdowns — especially the devastating two-month shutdown of Shanghai — has inflicted serious damage on China’s industrial capacity and finances.

The surprising allegations against Zhang are a signal that Beijing can no longer conceal just how much of the data it presents to the rest of the world is false, so it needs scapegoats and a high-profile crackdown.

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