BEIJING (Reuters) - China's vice premier Zhang Gaoli has warned local government officials they will be punished if they submit false economic data, the official China Daily reported on Thursday, following a scandal over statistics compiled in a rustbelt province.
There has long been scepticism about the reliability of Chinese data, especially as the government has sought to reduce expectations of a protracted slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.
The newspaper quoted Zhang as saying that local governments, especially at provincial level, must improve the credibility of statistics as false data could mislead policymakers.
Any officials found responsible for bogus statistics would face demerits, denying them promotion, Zhang said.
In January, the state-owned People's Daily newspaper reported that the Liaoning government, in its annual work report, revealed it had misstated fiscal data from 2011 to 2014.
The combined economic output of China's provinces has long exceeded national output measured by the National Bureau of Statistics, raising suspicions that local officials were overstating performance.
The bureau has staunchly defended the accuracy of the national data, saying it has adopted accounting methods to stop output figures being manipulated by local officials.
Writing in the People's Daily in December, the bureau's head said some local government officials had submitted fake data and would be punished.
(Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)