Can China’s numbers be trusted? As Pompeo deepens US-China row

BBC – China has a bad record on official government numbers that the world believes. It’s not down to incompetence, it’s by design. Communist party dominance sometimes depends on living up to forecasts or targets – even if they aren’t actually met – and, conversely, burying reality when it shines a light on wrong doing or, worse still, failure that puts a dent in the party’s credibility to govern.

So China comes to the table, so to speak, with much scepticism awaiting it. Its GDP figures have long been regarded as more of a guide to the trends in its economy but not an accurate reflection of its actual growth.

Doubts about the official government figures on coronavirus, that are collated at 3am every morning, are fuelled by several specific issues: First, there was the (admitted) cover up and subsequent three-week delay in publicising and acting upon the outbreak.

Second, the empirical integrity of the numbers has been repeatedly questioned; just a few days ago officials in Hubei revealed that they didn’t count asymptomatic positive cases or those that didn’t require hospitalisation.

Third – and this may appear simplistic but it’s an obvious question – could it really be the case that a couple of weeks ago for a short period of time there were no new confirmed cases – zero – of the virus in all of mainland china, except Hubei?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the G7 group of big economies have discussed China’s “intentional disinformation campaign” on the new coronavirus during a virtual meeting.

He says all the leaders were aware of the campaign, which, he says, Beijing continued to engage in so as to deflect attention from what really happened.

The Trump administration has repeatedly alleged that China was and is suppressing information about the coronavirus.

President Trump has called it the “Chinese virus” – angering Beijing and ignoring World Health Organization guidelines.

Mr Pompeo said the world needed transparency and accurate information from China in order to fight the pandemic.

Some Chinese officials have suggested that the virus was brought to China by the US military.

Mr Pompeo dismissed that as “crazy talking”.

He also appeared to dismiss China’s sales of medical supplies to combat the pandemic, saying Beijing was now trying to claim that it was the “white hat” (showing moral leadership).

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