Chinaâ€™s Lies, Damn Lies, and Secret Statistics Besides pollution figures, what else is Beijing trying to keep hush-hush? Beijing makes no secret of its secrecy. While the government has become much less controlling than it used to be, information that doesn't suit Beijing's larger purposes still gets withheld, while information that doesn't quite suit its purposes is often polished until it does. Only last month, an op-ed in the state-run newspaper Beijing Daily exposed local reporters displaying a shameful inclination towards balanced journalism. "Chinese media interested in negative news have been seduced into wrongdoing by Western concepts," it fumed. China's sensitivity about its control of the bad-news agenda was highlighted once again this week when Beijing publicly chided the U.S. embassy for measuring Beijing's sometimes "crazy bad" air pollution and publishing the data on Twitter. The damage is limited: although many expats and web savvy Chinese can still access it, Twitter is blocked in China. Nonetheless, the U.S. embassy smog readings are embarrassing for the Chinese government, whose own pollution measures tend to be much more favourable. But pollution is just one of the items on the propaganda hit list. Anything that might shed some light on policy failures, social ills, or even the personalities of the country's leaders is liable to be altered or suppressed. Here, then, are six of Beijing's bad-news taboos. 1. Economic data The growth of the Chinese economy is a good-news story that has generally required only light touches of the censor's red pen, but with an expected slowdown in China's economy coupled with the world economy more dependent on Chinese growth than ever before, the markets would love to get a closer look at China Inc.'s books to reassure themselves that the economic miracle is predicated on numbers that add up. Honesty is key to market confidence, and Beijing has been open in reporting many of the worrying indicators, such as weak manufacturing output, emerging about its economy's medium-term prospects. Yet there are suggestions that Beijing is becoming less, not more, transparent when it comes to the economy. Recently, the government began withholding financial reports about Chinese companies from foreign investors -- information that it previously made available. And in May, Beijing ruled that the local affiliates of the "Big Four" international auditing firms must be managed by Chinese nationals by 2017 if they want to continue auditing Chinese company accounts. This follows the resignation last year of a number of Western auditors working on Chinese company books after they claimed to have discovered irregularities. If Beijing is anticipating a run of grim economic data, its natural inclination may be to keep more and more statistics out of the public domain. In 2007, a government report was commissioned detailing the economic cost of the environmental damage suffered as a result of the country's modernization, featuring data from both the State Environmental Protection Administration, and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the governmental agency that compiles the government's social and economic statistics. Senior government figures evidently found it uncomfortable reading, and never released the data.