In those days the People's Government issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Middle Kingdom. This is the first census that took place while Hu (Who? yes, Hu) was President of China. And everyone went to his hometown to register…..(apologies to Dr. Luke)
…Only this time they didn't, because this time so many people (200-300 million??) have left their hometowns looking for work; therefore, the census was to be conducted by counting people at their place of residence instead of at the location of their hukou (birthplace registration).
And this time, for the first time ever, foreigners were to be counted.
China's 2010 National Census has begun. We've known it's been coming because of all the green banners hanging around town urging everyone to do their patriotic duty and cooperate with the census takers.
Earlier this evening the census takers came to my door. Apparantly I was the first big nose on her beat because she seemed a bit confused about how to fill out the special form to count foreigners.
After the obligatory "you're Chinese is so good — no, it's terrible" pleasantries were dispensed with, she recorded my name, sex, passport # (not residence permit or visa #, interestingly), how long I've lived in this apartment, and my phone number. That's it.
Then, because an event of this magnitude cannot pass without the giving of a gift, she presented me with a bright pink "I cooperated with the 2010 census" apron!! Iwonder what I'll do with that — leave it out for my housekeeper to use, I suppose.
I'm looking forward to next year's release of the census results. I can see the headline now: In 2010, China's population stood at 1.4 billion citizens and 724,000 'Big Nosed Foreigners.' One of those big noses will be mine.
I've always wanted my presence here to count for something!