China’s Lies, Damn Lies, and Secret Statistics

Discussion in 'China' started by ajtr, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    China’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.
     
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    2. Crime

    China has become more realistic about its law-and-order problems since the supposedly crime-free days of Mao's socialist utopia. Beijing's official data claims that non-violent crime is on the rise but also that the murder rate dropped by half from 2000 to 2009.

    So eyebrows were raised in 2010 when a government think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, reported that violent crime had risen for the first time in a decade. The admission came in response to a string of violent incidents, often involving multiple random homicides, which shocked the general public and made it impossible for Beijing to ignore. But social scientists were sceptical about the claim that violent crime had only just started to increase. Their inevitable question: Were the crime figures being massaged all along?

    Part of the problem may be that the crime-reporting procedures used by China's police are out of date. A sense of sympathy for violent criminals in an increasingly angry society is also a disturbing development that the government wants masked. Earlier this year, the Communist Party's newspaper People's Daily asked Chinese netizens how they felt about the brutal murder of a doctor in the northeast city of Harbin: two thirds said that they were "happy" about the case. That was definitely too much public information for Beijing, and the story was quickly deleted from the newspaper's website.

    3. Social unrest

    Chinese society is undergoing wrenching change, and the widening gap between rich and poor is one of Beijing's foremost policy concerns.

    The government is open about the disparity in urban and rural incomes. However, in one version of the story, the wealth gap is narrowing: According to the NBS, the ratio of urban to rural incomes across China shrank to 3.13 to 1 in 2011 from 3.33 to 1 in 2009. But in other versions of the wealth-gap story inequality is getting worse -- especially when one factors in the undisclosed income of the urban rich. Even the state media have cast doubt on the NBS figures, with China Daily asserting in April that "policies and measures have failed to reverse the widening income gap."

    Beijing has also become wary of publishing data about the "mass incidents," as it describes them, which are often be triggered by abuses by officials in the provinces. Individual cases such as last year's uprising in Wukan -- the village in Guangdong that successfully ousted its corrupt local leaders -- occasionally attract international attention. But countless similar episodes throughout the Chinese countryside (not least in restive Tibet and Xinjiang) are going largely unreported. Foreign journalists often estimate that around 100,000 "disturbances" erupt in China annually. Beijing likely knows the real figure, but isn't telling.
     
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    4. Leader's Personal Lives

    China's leaders are fiercely protective when it comes to their own private realm. So while ordinary Chinese citizens know who President Hu Jintao is, and possibly what his wife's name is, virtually no meaningful information about their personal lives filters through to the public domain. State media portrays the country's leaders as one-dimensional figures defined only by their official careers and by their all-consuming desire for people's welfare; a Chinese journalist was sacked for reporting the "state secret" that Hu has diabetes. Compare that to the reams of pages published about the private lives of the Obamas, and you get the idea.

    What do they have to hide? In some cases, a staggering amount. Occasionally, when the Communist Party feeds one of its own to the media monster for transgressions too extreme to deal with internally, we catch a glimpse of the colorful lives these people sometimes lead. Bo Xilai, for example, makes John Edwards look like a choirboy: The story of the ex-Politburo member's recent downfall is lurid with accusations of murder, conspiracy, corruption, and embezzlement. The stories that are openly reported are extraordinary enough: the Communist Party official who had his mistress assassinated; the former railways minister kicked out of the Party in May for supposedly stealing $157 million; the princeling who literally thought he could get away with murder in 2010 because his father was the deputy chief of police of a mid-sized city.

    The latter case was an object lesson for the government: its attempts to suppress the story backfired, and it ended up going viral. The message was that blanket censorship doesn't always work. It's better instead to protect the core by sacrificing a few hopeless cases at the fringe. But how the Party decides which individuals to protect, and which to throw to the wolves, we simply don't know.


    5. Mega-projects

    Data on China's extraordinary feats of engineering are plentiful. The span of the world's longest sea bridge in Qingdao, the generating capacity of the Three Gorges Dam, the speed of the Shanghai Maglev: We know all sorts of details about these projects, as it's a source of great pride.

    But when the gloss rubs off these prestige projects, the information flow can quickly dry up. After years of popular misgivings about the environmental impact of the Three Gorges Dam -- the observed effects ranging from earthquakes to landslides to drought -- the government finally admitted in 2011 that it had major concerns about its flagship engineering project. However, detailed environmental data have yet to emerge; the assumption is that they would make horrible reading for the millions of people who live nearby.

    Similarly, the fiasco of China's ambitious high-speed rail program was publicly acknowledged last year after a crash near Wenzhou killed 40 people. Only in the face of a public outcry triggered by the deaths and the ham-fisted apologies of railway officials did another truth come out: that the project was being run by a group of corrupt individuals who were determined to roll out the network as quickly as possible, regardless of the safety implications and the exorbitant financial costs. The once-feted program has now largely dropped out of the news, as China scales back its original ambitions for a national high-speed network.
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    6. Tragic histories

    China is hardly unique in struggling to come to terms with the mistakes of the past. However, while the Communist Party advocates self-criticism, only so much criticism of the Party's blunders can be tolerated for fear of undermining its legitimacy. Thus discussion of the most painful episodes in China's modern history -- the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the crackdown in Tiananmen Square -- remains strictly circumscribed.

    The government possesses detailed demographic records dating back to the 1950s, courtesy of its extensive network of Public Security Bureaus (effectively local police stations). This data, alongside other government records, could provide a more accurate estimate of how many people died as a result of government purges and the famines caused by Mao's disastrous economic policies. But Beijing won't open the files for public viewing any time soon.

    Information continues to leak out about the much more recent Tiananmen massacre. Back in 1989, then Beijing mayor Chen Xitong blamed a "tiny handful of people" for provoking the government's "correct" actions. In early June of this year, however, the terminally ill former official declared that Tiananmen was "a tragedy that could have been avoided and should have been avoided." For a government struggling, and perhaps failing, to control the Tiananmen narrative, it was another piece of bad news. Clearly, the U.S. embassy's pollution tweets are the least of the government's information worries.
     
  6. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Chinese regional bosses are well known for tearing down brand new structures and rebuilding them just to show a growth in gdp.

    Chinese people look upto their govt to rule and build massive projects, that is why if CPC wants to be in power it has to undertake massive infrastructure projects.
     
  7. huaxia rox

    huaxia rox Senior Member Senior Member

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    local govs have more problems than the central as we all have known.....but on the other hand there r also big pressures from people to get better infra strture coz ordinary people also deserve a better life.....other wise prc may face some naxal movements too.....
     
  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I am quite surprised at the stuff that the article has thrown up.

    How far is it the truth?
     
  9. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

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    That depends how much you want to believe.

    Internet is always the good place to tell your story no matter true or false!
     
  10. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    I believe in what our 50 cents I mean Chinese posters say over here. I take it as the gospel ;)
     
  11. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

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    Since everything about China is false, the last thing Indians want to do is being deeply concerned by a fake China.

    A fake China is a weak China, why are you guys so bothered by a weak China, totally doesn't make sense.
     
  12. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Actually, one used to believe what came out of China.

    But repeatedly proved to have 'dressed up' the facts, people have stopped believing what comes out of China.

    Therefore, one wonders if people can be blamed not to take the things that come out of China at its face value.
     
  13. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

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    Everytime I read post like this, I am always amused.

    The desperation demontrated here is too obvious to be ignored. Your constant attempt to discredit Chinese effort to build massive infrastructure projects only shows how disappointed are you with India's inability to do the same thing.

    You people are looking forward to such massive infrastructure development happening in India more than anyone else, but the disturbing truth is incompetent Indians still don't have the determination, resolution, and skills to make that happen.

    Had India been building what China is building, had China been stuck with the broken infrastructure as India is, I doubted our Indian fellows will be so cynical about massive infrastructure projects.

    Sour grapes are just everywhere within this forum.
     
  14. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

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    Why should I blame you for not believing, I am just pointing out the irony here.

    when Indians are so keen on making sure facts about China are "dressed up", it only means one thing, the dressed-up facts about China making you guys nervous.
     
  15. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Anyone would be nervous if one is exposed to uncertainty about any issue, more so, with the truth!
     
  16. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

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    I can live with anything about China, right now I am living in it. If there is anyone here who is exposed to any truth about China, that would be me, not you.

    India's insecurity about China has been well demonstrated in your reluctance to accept accomplishments by Chinese. The more you question the authenticity of Chinese statistics, the more insecure you are. If Chinese statistics looks worse than India's, do you guys even give damn?
     
  17. Oblaks

    Oblaks Regular Member

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    Are you trying to point out that China is such a nice country to live in? A heaven for all Chinese? If so, are you also speaking in behalf of the chinese living in poverty who constitutes a large part of the population? China has gone a long way indeed. Nobody can deny that. And I must say ...her government and netizens are really good at bragging about it. And just now I realized - at exaggerating. When the time comes that her more than a billion citizens are all doing well, just like the real first world class countries, that is when I will be a believer. until then, China is still a developing country.
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Of course you will know better as a CCP apparatchik. You will know all the false statistics to crow about.

    But then ask those from Xihaigu Prefecture.of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

    Agreed they are not Hans, but have they no right to live as well as a CCP apparatchik like you?

    I am not question anything.

    The world is!!
     
  19. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

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    How do you deduce from my post that China is a paradise for Chinese? Show me anything related to heaven in my post, otherwise you are just perverting my words.

    There are not many Chinese here, the rest are mostly Indians, between me and Indians, who is more qualified to speak on the behalf of Chinese? Or are you more qualified to speak on the behalf of Chinese?

    China has a long way to go, no one is denying that. But please review all the posts on this thread, what are Indians really arguing?

    The statistics disclosed by China, even if it is dressed up as Indians suggested still doesn't make China a developed country, then I am wondering why are they so sensitive?
     
  20. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

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    Prove it to us that I am a communist, otherwise you are again making cheap shot.

    Whenever you can't refute me properly, you just, as always, try to discount my post by tagging me. So noble thing to do for an high-rank Indian military officer.

    The world has long accepted that Chinese people are having better life than Indians, Hans or non-Hans. It is just funny to see poor Indians who can't even have full stomachs being so concerned about the life ot Chinese non-Hans. By saying that, I am making cheap shot, see the link below.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/b...-prompts-an-intense-review.html?_r=1&ref=asia


    You can keep questioning, but we all now what it is really about. It is never about what the truth about China is. It is rather about what kind of truth about China you can bear and what kind of truth you can't
     
  21. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    What is there to prove?

    Do you belong to any other political party of China?

    Is there any other political party or thought in China?

    Are you a member of the Falun Gong?

    Have you condemned the Communist Party of China?

    Obviously, you are but a running partner of the Communist thought, policies and governance.

    I counter you and other Chinese quite lucidly. Have no second opinion on that.

    Tag you?

    Whatever for?

    You are not as important as Mao or are you?

    You are the next Leader - Jumping?.

    Heard that quote all that glitters is not Gold?

    Abraham Lincoln has said, "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy"..
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2012

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