BEIJING -- Suspicion persists among economists that Chinese officials manipulate economic data to generate a lofty growth rate divorced from reality.
Even Premier Li Keqiang is said to have called the official data "man-made" years ago as a regional Communist Party chief, citing railway cargo volume, electricity consumption and bank lending as better indicators.
Those three indicators now make up the so-called Li Keqiang index, which the Japan Center for Economic Research recently used to compute its own estimate of China's growth.
The center sees real GDP growth at roughly 5% for the quarter ended June, significantly short of Beijing's official figure of 7%. Several experts believe that July-September growth also hovered around 5%.
The National Bureau of Statistics has been busy trying to dispel doubts. For example, it argues that GDP growth did not tumble along with railway cargo volume because the number reflects development of expressways and other structural changes.
A joke circulating around the country says the true savior of the economy is not the finance ministry or the central bank, but the statistics bureau, which can cook the books.