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Is China cooking its books?

March 26, 2013: 6:57 AM ET

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Are China's economic statistics accurate?

Pose this question to a group a China watchers and you're likely to receive a variety of responses. Some observers are convinced that China is cooking its books. Others believe state statistics are largely reliable and useful for drawing conclusions about the world's second largest economy. Still others will debate the accuracy of certain data classes, pointing to more meaningful alternatives.

Now we have an opinion from researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Their verdict? The statistics are pretty good.

The researchers compared Chinese government statistics with other economic measures that the researchers say are "less susceptible to official manipulation."

"Importantly, these models suggest that Chinese growth has been in the ballpark of what official data have reported. We find no evidence that recently reported Chinese GDP figures are less reliable than usual."

This brief paper from the San Francisco Fed won't settle the matter. But mark another tally in the "legit" category.

The paper, written by John Fernald, Israel Malkin and Mark Spiegel, can be read here.

Of course, it's worth noting that China is not the only country to have its official statistics questioned. Just last year, former General Electric (GE) CEO Jack Welch suggested on Twitter that the Obama administration, calling them "these Chicago guys," had manipulated the monthly jobs report for September in order to make the economy look better than it actually was just weeks before the election.

Welch then doubled down, writing in the Wall Street Journal that data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics might not be "precise" or "bias-free." He raised questions over three key statistics -- the labor-force participation rate, the growth in government workers and overall job growth -- saying big one-month gains "have to raise some eyebrows."

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About This Author
Charles Riley
Charles Riley
Reporter, CNNMoney

Charles Riley lives and works in Hong Kong, where he covers markets, economics and other high-impact stories across Asia. He previously worked for CNNMoney in New York and CNN in Washington. He tweets @CRrileyCNN

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