China Starts System to Raise Data Accuracy, Statistics Head Says

China will begin using a unified system this week to collect industrial, retail sales and investment data to help improve the accuracy of key economic indicators, the country’s top statistician said.

A total of 700,000 industrial and construction companies, retailers and real estate developers will report their data online directly to a centralized system starting Feb. 18, Ma Jiantang, commissioner of the National Bureau of Statistics, said in a statement on the agency’s website today.

China’s economic data have come under increasing scrutiny from investors and academics as the world’s second-largest economy exerts a greater influence on global markets. The bureau acknowledged more than five years ago that interference in and falsification of data collection at the local level was harming the credibility of the nation’s statistics.

The new data collection system “enables the bureau to obtain original data directly from companies so as to prevent any possible interference” by other parties, Ma said at a press conference last month. It will also shorten the time it takes to collect data and “reduce the burden” on companies, who previously had to submit data separately for each indicator and through several layers of local authorities, Ma added.

In today’s statement Ma called for companies to make “true and accurate” reporting of information to the system and warned that falsification of data would be dealt with “seriously.”

Improve Accuracy

Ma initiated a campaign to begin unified reporting and the system is one of the bureau’s priorities through 2015 to improve the accuracy of data that are sometimes at odds with statistics reported separately by industries or local authorities.

China’s 31 provincial-level governments reported a combined gross domestic product of 51.8 trillion yuan ($8.2 trillion) last year, 10 percent higher than the figure calculated by the statistics bureau at a national level, according to a report yesterday on the website of the state-backed Economic Daily.

China’s national economic output published by the bureau has fallen short of the combined value of local reports since the indicator was calculated at both central and local levels in 1985, the report said. Last year’s discrepancy, 4.6 trillion yuan, was a record and equivalent of the output of eastern Shandong province, according to the report.

The statistics bureau didn’t specify how the new data-collection system would affect reporting of gross domestic product.

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