BEIJING (Reuters) - China will step up efforts to investigate and punish any cases of falsified statistics, the country's chief statistician said in remarks published on Wednesday, highlighting the issue of reliability of Chinese data.
The accuracy of economic statistics in general in China has come under the spotlight in recent years as some growth-obsessed local governments published false economic data.
"In the area of statistics, falsification can be considered as the biggest form of corruption," Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics told a meeting, in a reference to the Chinese government's broader crackdown on corruption.
"We must seriously investigate and punish such corruption cases," Ma was quoted as saying in a statement on the agency's website, www.stats.gov.cn
The comments were published on the same day as official figures showed a surge in exports in January far above expectations, prompting speculation about a return of the practice of disguising currency speculation as trade that had distorted trade figures last year.
The statistics bureau has previously vowed zero tolerance for fake data, and has admonished some local governments for falsifying economic data.
The most recent case was in December, when officials in Yanting county in the southwestern province of Sichuan were found to have had overstated almost fivefold the value of industrial output from local companies.
Part of the problem is a traditional system whereby local government officials seek to burnish their credentials and promotion prospects by exceeding government targets for economic growth.
China's leaders have embarked on a high-profile campaign against corruption at all levels, warning that it threatens the survival of the ruling Communist Party.
(Reporting by Xiaoyi Shao and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Richard Borsuk)