COLUMN-China’s economic data is dodgy, but it doesn’t matter – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.K. – October 23, 2015)

Oct 23 (Reuters) – There is widespread scepticism about the accuracy of China’s economic growth numbers, but the real question shouldn’t be whether the data is credible, it should be whether it matters that it isn’t.

The official gross domestic product (GDP) figure of 6.9 percent year-on-year growth for the September quarter was widely condemned by mainly Western economists as a fiction bearing little resemblance to actual economic activity.

At the World Commodities Week conference in London this week, the consensus was that Chinese growth was more in the region of 5 to 6 percent, and that the official number owes more to political expediency than to economic reality.

While this may indeed by true, the issue really should be whether absolutely accurate data is necessary when trying to get a handle on China.

If you move from the economic world to the commodities world, China watchers have grappled with dubious statistics for so long that they have become inured to them, to the point where some barely reference official numbers.

For example, very few analysts believe the output data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Iron ore mined in China has fallen by 9 percent to 1.02 billion tonnes in the first nine months of the year, compared to the same period in 2014, NBS data shows, while steel output has declined 2.14 percent to 608.9 million tonnes.

When you take customs data that shows iron ore imports were flat at 699 million tonnes in the first nine months, it becomes hard to reconcile iron ore imports, domestic output with steel production.

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