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The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

China’s official data isn’t always helpful. But the earnings statements of foreign multinationals give a good alternative reality check on the Chinese economy. Leaf through recent numbers from those with big businesses in the People’s Republic, such as Yum Brands, Siemens or Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton, and three trends emerge.

Consumer companies tell a tale of rising prices. Yum, the parent group of Kentucky Fried Chicken, is just one struggling to pass through rising costs to Chinese customers. Same-store sales rose by 21 percent in the fourth quarter, but food, wages and rent hikes helped drag down margins to 16 percent from 18 percent a year earlier. Yum plans to raise prices again in 2012, after a small 2 percent increase in September. So much for inflation being under control.

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