I just read a great story in Nanjing Morning News. In Shiqiao town, Pukou district, Nanjing city, there was a survey of how well-off citizens are nowadays. The various village governments undertook certain extreme measures for this survey. According to the reporter’s investigation, the various village residents all received a booklet called “Sample answers for the prosperity survey.” There were sixteen questions and answers in this booklet. For example, Q3 was: “In 2008, what was the approximate income of your entire family?” The correct answer was: “More than 8,000 yuan.” As another example, Q16 was: “On a scale of 0 to 100, how would you rate your own happiness level?” The correct answer was: “Between 90 and 100.” The village cadres also said that those people lucky enough to be selected for the telephone interview will be rewarded with 2,000 yuan if they gave the correct answers.
Even more amazingly, the telephones of many people malfunctioned on that day. Some people were happily waiting at home to wait for the home telephone to ring, but nothing happened. So they used their mobile phones to call their own home telephones: “It sounded like as if nobody was home, but actually the home telephone was not ringing.” Some people went down to the Ministry of Telecommunication to complain and found more than 100 people there complaining about the same situation. “Most of those with telephone problems were either poor, or had previously argued with the cadres.” Telephone service was restored in the afternoon, by which time the telephone survey had just ended.
One does not know to laugh or cry about this story about the behavior of Chinese officials. Random sampling is a somewhat scientific statistical methodology, and it was a good thing that the Jiangsu provincial government wanted to conduct a prosperity study. But the grassroots cadres in China are infinitely wise and they subverted the survey.
Read also: You are as happy as the government says you are by Joel Martinsen on China Media Project.