Chinese government figures showing a 19.8 percent rise in the country's exports for the three months to February were definitely puzzling. Due to lackluster demand from the U.S. and Europe, and banks being unwilling to lend to small businesses, the nation's factories are not, on the face of it, doing very well.
The glowing recent export figures do not match corresponding import data from Hong Kong, which is often the first destination for Chinese-made goods as they leave the mainland. The Wall Street Journal notes that while this is not the first time such a discrepancy has occurred, the mismatch for the three months through February was "greater than at any other time in recent years."
That will not surprise regular readers of Quartz. We commented in early February that a reported 25 percent rise in Chinese exports for January was more likely a case of heightened tax and invoicing fraud than anything to do with the real economy.
The nation's trade data is often riddled with fakery. Chinese factories sometimes mislabel domestic sales as exports to falsely claim VAT rebates on overseas sales.