Chinese economic data is often questioned by skeptics who believe government statisticians massage the numbers to make the Communist Party look like it's doing a good job at bringing prosperity to its many citizens. Figures like GDP growth have been called " too important a number politically to be reliable " and, more plainly, "a fake figure." Li Keqiang, China's new premier, called GDP figures "'man-made' and therefore unreliable," according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.
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But a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco calls this received wisdom into question. Its authors find that Chinese GDP numbers do tend to reflect data provided by more independent sources -- namely the exports and imports of China's trading partners, which are immune from any Beijing manipulation.
The Fed study first studied trade with China and its biggest trading partners: the U.S., the EU and Japan. It then compared Chinese growth and production statistics with figures from other trading partners around the world. As this chart shows, Chinese economic figures and the international data were broadly aligned, both in terms of the "trio" and the rest of the world.
"We find no evidence that China's slowdown in 2012 was greater than officially reported," the Fed authors concluded.