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It's credibility behind data release

13:24, June 12, 2010

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By Li Hong

As China is poised to become the world's second largest economy later this year and prone to gain more prominence and clout in global economic impact, management of its key data publication needs heightened oversight, and must be brought to the acceptable standard.

An uproar has been triggered by a leakage of China's exports figure for May before it was officially released. The Reuters filed a report on June 9 quoting unidentified sources that export rose about 50 percent, consumer price index climbed 3.1 percent and new loans for May were around 630 billion yuan. China's official statistics publicized on June 10 and 11 matched or were close to the report.

Market around the world rose after heeding the soaring rise of China's export, which rose 48.5 percent in May, because it proved to be a clear indicator that the world's major growth engine is not slackening despite the European sovereign debt woes, and China will continue to lead a momentous world recovery after a two-year hiatus of the 2008-09 Great Recession. On June 9, the Shanghai stock index jumped 2.8 percent, the most in more than two weeks, followed by rallies in Europe markets and the Wall Street.

The leak provided much needed hormone on the markets, as investors had grown weary that China's locomotive would decelerate and hurt a global rebound. However, the leak also caught many investors unguarded, perplexing their trade decisions, and they fumed about the "premature" exposure of the export information.

It is definitely inappropriate and legitimately wrong for any government data to come out before they are publicized. No matter it is China's monthly GDP growth, CPI rise, credit supply or import/export figures, nerves are gripped as world markets are paying attention to China as never before. Sometimes, billions of dollars of investment are at stake, at their gain and loss is hooked by a piece of information.

The National Bureau of Statistics, which reports to the State Council, China's highest governing body, said it very much condemns acts of leaking core data "which are still in the confidentiality period". Its spokesman promised the bureau would investigate the case.

The Reuter report cited three people who heard the figures from a senior Chinese government official speaking at an investor conference. So, presumably, that official leaked the economic information out of inadvertence. But, hasn't the official been tutored, or learnt in a training course that disclosing confidential government economic data is forbidden by the law?

And, it is not the first time important information is leaked prior to official release. Some domestic newspapers including the China Business News and the Beijing Times had reported China's GDP figures before the National Bureau of Statistics disclosed to the public.

The problem should gain the attention of the central authorities as well as the prosecutors. In a market economy, the principle of fairness and justice shouldn't be allowed to be tramped by a few. And, it correlates to the bed rock of China's economic security and integrity.

Take China's not-that-nascent stock market for an example. Despite the regulators have enhanced oversight and mended the fences many times in the past 20 or so years, the market remain notoriously troubled with internal trading, unethical information manipulation, and gambling fed by hearsays and rumors.

The data leaking case ought to alarm the bell that the country's valuable economic, technological and defense information is under siege. To prevent the data from being encroached, legislation should be geared up and enforcement be upgraded to world's advanced levels. A legislative berm could be erected to contain more leaking of key data.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hong has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.


Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."

Li HongmeiLi Hongmei

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.