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Juking the Stats? Authoritarian Information Problems in China

Jeremy Wallace

Cornell University - Department of Government

December 10, 2013

Forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science

Economic statistics dominate policy analyses, political discussions, and the study of political economy. Such statistics inform citizens on general conditions while central leaders also use them to evaluate local officials. Are economic data systematically manipulated? After establishing discrepancies in economic data series across regime types cross-nationally, I dive into sub-national growth data in China. This paper leverages variation in the likelihood of manipulation over two dimensions, arguing that politically sensitive data are more likely to be manipulated at politically sensitive times. GDP releases generate headlines, while highly correlated electricity production and consumption data are less closely watched. At the sub-national level in China, the difference between GDP and electricity growth increases in years with leadership turnover, consistent with juking the stats for political reasons. The analysis points to the political role of information and the limits of non-electoral accountability mechanisms in authoritarian regimes as well as suggesting caution in the use of politically sensitive official economic statistics.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: China, authoritarian, information, data manipulation

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Date posted: December 22, 2011 ; Last revised: February 5, 2014

Suggested Citation

Wallace, Jeremy, Juking the Stats? Authoritarian Information Problems in China (December 10, 2013). Forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1975160 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1975160

Contact Information

Jeremy Wallace (Contact Author)
Cornell University - Department of Government ( email )
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
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