ONCE again the statistics we have been receiving in Hong Kong on China have turned out to be unreliable. The single most important message coming out of the first day of Property Post's seminar programme yesterday was that the only way to get reliable information on China is through honest hard legwork. Recently, shudders have rocked investment circles over the prospect of a huge over-supply of office space looming in Shanghai and to a slightly lesser extent in Beijing. Analysts in Hong Kong have forecast anything up to 43 million square feet of office space coming on stream in the next three or four years. That is an incredible amount. Hong Kong is renowned for its frenetic pace of development, but it took the territory 33 years to provide that amount of office space. With such a huge amount of space thought to be building up in Shanghai and Beijing, the doom says have been predicting office rents and prices in both cities would start a dramatic fall this year. Not so, say the people in the know. Leung Chung-ying, managing director of CY Leung & Co, and Michael Purefoy, director of L & D Beijing, said anyone who took time to tour Beijing and Shanghai's plethora of building sites would see that nothing like the supply predicted for this year and next was likely to materialise. Numerous planned projects have stalled or been shelved altogether. In Shanghai, for instance, Mr Leung claimed that less than half the new supply expected for this year was likely to materialise. Simply totalling up the amount of space approved for construction by the authorities in China on your calculator is not good enough. The only way for analysts to get a true picture of what is really going on is to get on a plane and actually visit all the sites one by one to inspect what is going on.