China's National Bureau of Statistics Chief Falls Under Corruption Probe

 
 

According to news released at 6:40 pm on January 26, 2016 on the website of the Central Disciplinary Inspection Commission, Wang Bao’an, the party group secretary and chief of the National Bureau of Statistics of China, is under investigation for “serious violations of the Party disciplines.”

A native of Henan, Wang has been a rising star in Chinese politics. In his early career, he followed the path of mishu (personal secretary). He was the personal secretary of Xiang Huaicheng, former minister of finance. While Xiang was a vice minister of finance, Wang served as his personal secretary between 1991 and 1994. When Xiang was transferred to the National Bureau of Statistics of China as deputy chief in July 1994, Wang tagged along, again as Xiang’s secretary. When Xiang was appointed as minister of finance in March 1998 by Premier Zhu Rongji, Wang was transferred back to the Ministry of Finance as deputy director of the General Office. In the subsequent years, Wang continued his rise in the Ministry of Finance until he became vice minister of finance in February 2012.

In April 2015, Wang Bao’an replaced Ma Jiantang as the party group secretary and chief of the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Five years younger than his predecessor, Wang, then 51, was moving up the ranks in Chinese politics. Within nine months, however, Wang has been sacked.

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On the afternoon of January 26, Wang appeared at a press conference on China’s economic situation. He expressed confidence about the future prospects of China’s stock markets and was even more confident about China’s economic future. He believed that China’s long-term economic prospects were fundamentally good thanks to six factors: urbanization; the economic scale of a big country; innovation; the transition from a demographic dividend to a talent dividend; expected improvements in the global market; and innovative policy-making.

Yet within hours of the press conference, Wang disappeared from the scene for a corruption investigation.

It is not clear why Wang has been placed under investigation. There are various speculations. Some think that Wang’s investigation must have something to do with his long career in the Ministry of Finance. Others believe that he might have done something wrong during his service as assistant governor in Heilongjiang province from December 2001 to February 2003, when Song Fatang was governor and Xu Youfang was party secretary.

The fact that Wang Bao’an has been the chief of the National Bureau of Statistics of China since April 2015 and thus is responsible for the release of China’s economic statistics for 2015 has made many international commentators wonder about the reliability of China’s 2015 GDP growth figure (which has been reported to be 6.9 percent). The GDP figure is the lowest since 1990, yet given China’s economic challenges of overcapacity and other serious issues, it may still be too good to be true.

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