CHINA began the world's biggest census on Sunday, confronting
vast geographic, logistical, and political obstacles in tallying its
more than 1.1 billion people.
Traveling by foot, bicycle, yak, and horse, nearly 7 million
census takers went door to door and hut to hut nationwide,
collecting data from China's 200 million households.
In Tibet and parts of the country's rugged northwest, the count
began a month early to give nomads trained as census takers time to
complete their record gathering by the July 10 deadline, officials
"(Tibetan) herdsmen in some pastoral areas will be registered for
the first time," said Zhang Weihua, an official in charge of the
census in Tibet.
The census, China's fourth since the Communist Party took power
in 1949, will cost an estimated $.21 per Chinese resident, or about
A sample of the results will be published next May. But it will
take until June 1992 to finish processing the data with more than
3,400 large computers, says Huang Hui, director of the computer
center of the State Statistics Bureau. By that time, China will have
another 22 million babies.
Aside from the logistical challenge, China's Orwellian regime
faces a public relations problem: fear. Many Chinese are hesitant to
complete the census forms honestly - or at all - out of fear of
revealing aspects of their lives that could incur punishment by the
"There are some masses who have worries," says Wei Zhiming, a
Beijing municipal census official. "We use propaganda to help them
understand," Mr. Wei said at a census station in Beijing's Western
District on Sunday.
One of the most sensitive issues involves the fate of China's
growing population of "black" children - children born outside of
the government's one-child policy who were never officially
registered by their parents.
Census takers want to account for such children, who number more
than 1 million, according to official estimates. But parents, who
under existing regulations should pay stiff fines for additional
children, seek to hide their illegitimate offspring.
China's army of statisticians has also targeted the migrant, or
"floating," population. Migration has surged over the past decade,
as peasants left idle by market-oriented rural reforms quit the
fields in pursuit of more lucrative city jobs. Official estimates of
the migrant force range from 20 million to 80 million. …