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Lights go on, but no one goes to work

How local governments are faking recovery from the coronavirus

Employees on an assembly line in Shanghai on Feb. 24: Not all companies are faking it, but many still fear spreading the deadly virus if they ask staff to get back to work.   © Reuters

Local companies and officials are fraudulently boosting electricity consumption and other metrics in order to meet tough new back-to-work targets as the spread of the new coronavirus in China wanes, a Caixin investigation has found.

As cases of COVID-19 in the country slowed in recent weeks, local governments in less-affected regions pushed offices and factories to get back to work, typically by assigning concrete targets to district officials. Company insiders and local civil servants told Caixin that being pressured to fulfill impossible quotas has forced them to cook the books.

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