Overcoming Authoritarian Information Constraints: Disincentivizing Falsification of Local Statistics in China
10:30 am
Room 3365 (Lifts 17-18), 3/F Academic Building, HKUST


In recent years, while a growing body of literature demonstrates how authoritarian regimes such as China are increasingly capable of supervising societal perceptions of the regime, monitoring the information distortion of regime agents remains a challenge. Conventional work questioning the credibility of China’s sub-national GDP statistics presumes local authorities are often motivated by better career prospects to exaggerate their GDP figures. A competing reality is that starting from 2018, various provinces and cities admitted their failure to reach growth targets. How can this be explained?

Based on various fieldwork from 2018 to 2020, original databases and secondary materials, this thesis explores the mechanisms through which China manages to curb local statistical falsification. Specifically, the implementation of “one-level-down” statistical calculation system and the establishment of a national-level digital platform diminish the chances of local statistical bureau to conceal falsification behavior. Meanwhile, the recently established possibility that cadres in local statistical bureaus could be disciplined directly by upper level statistical agencies, have de-linked the formerly shared incentives between local statistical agencies and their corresponding local governments. This thesis foreshadows the potential of curbing intra-regime information manipulation introduced by centralized performance-setting system.

Room 3365 (Lifts 17-18), 3/F Academic Building, HKUST
Speakers / Performers:
Mr LU Wenzhi