Are The Chinese Lying–And What That Means In The Mines

Jun 25, 2012
Essential Research

Before they shuffled off for the weekend, you kind of wonder weather the PM, or the Empty Suit (leader of the Opposition) orr Gina, the mining baron who is busy with her “I, Gina” show, had a chance to catch a story in the paper of record on the other side of the planet, which, if true, could mean a huge headache for the economy here at home. The upshot: China might be lying about its economic health. Uh-oh.

The New York Times weighed in with this nugget:

As the Chinese economy continues to sputter, prominent corporate executives in China and Western economists say there is evidence that local and provincial officials are falsifying economic statistics to disguise the true depth of the troubles.

Someone apparently is going around counting coal cars (talk about boring jobs–does that person get extra pay?):

Record-setting mountains of excess coal have accumulated at the country’s biggest storage areas because power plants are burning less coal in the face of tumbling electricity demand. But local and provincial government officials have forced plant managers not to report to Beijing the full extent of the slowdown, power sector executives said.

Electricity production and consumption have been considered a telltale sign of a wide variety of economic activity. They are widely viewed by foreign investors and even some Chinese officials as the gold standard for measuring what is really happening in the country’s economy, because the gathering and reporting of data in China is not considered as reliable as it is in many countries.

Indeed, officials in some cities and provinces are also overstating economic output, corporate revenue, corporate profits and tax receipts, the corporate executives and economists said. The officials do so by urging businesses to keep separate sets of books, showing improving business results and tax payments that do not exist.

What might this mean…nothing good:

The executives and economists roughly estimated that the effect of the inaccurate statistics was to falsely inflate a variety of economic indicators by 1 or 2 percentage points. That may be enough to make very bad economic news look merely bad. [emphasis added]

If the point of the story isn’t obvious: If China’s economy is actually very bad, not just bad, then, it will get worse here. Or to put a more fashionable for the season spin, perhaps inspired by the cacophony of sneezing and hacking rumbling from office pod to office pod, if China is coming down with an economic flu, it’s going to spread fast across Western Australia and every corner of the mining boom.

So, maybe all those regular people who aren’t feeling as optimistic as the Reserve Bank keeps telling they should be feeling know a lot more than the people in charge of monetary policy.


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