Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Uncounted

There's less than a week to go now before the end of the census period here in Beijing, and there's still been no sign of a census-taker around my way.

Well, there was someone who came and banged angrily on the door for 5 minutes one lunchtime last week, but I ignored them - on the not unreasonable grounds that I was naked (it was a hot day, and I'd just nipped home for a quick shower between two working appointments). They didn't come back, or leave a notice on my door (as some friends have told me the census-takers do) - perhaps it was only a looney neighbour or a frustrated meter-reader.

So, I'm becoming quite optimistic that I will succeed in my resolution to defy this census nonsense.

Of course, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this isn't a real census at all. As I'd thought all along, the major countrywide census effort is surely going to happen early next year, to fit in with the worldwide population census that is undertaken in the '01 year of each decade. I suspect that what's going on at the moment in Beijing (and perhaps in Beijing only; I haven't heard of anything similar happening in Shanghai or anywhere else) is an experimental study to try to assess the logistical requirements of that exercise. If they can somehow correlate how half-arsed this census was with how incomplete its returns were, they may be able to calculate how much time, money, and manpower they need to devote to a proper census next year.

I wish I could find out the dates of that census - so that I could arrange not to be here. But I rather fear the Chinese government may arrange that for all of us foreigners here, by cancelling our visas.

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