The head count will also reveal again how fast China is aging. One-fifth of the population is expected to be 65 or older by 2020, potentially making China the first country to grow old before it grows rich, and putting an enormous burden on those single children as their parents' generation retires. It seems inevitable that new census data will force the government - which is cash-rich but presides over a torn social security net - to consider new investments in public health care and a national pension program.
Getting those policies right, of course, relies on the army of census-takers getting the numbers right this time around. But many in Daxing say they're not sure they'll be around when the enumerators come asking their questions.
"This is an important national project," said Han Jiuren, a 49-year-old home decorator who lives in Daxing but is registered in another province. "But I might not be home that day."
Asking the basics
China's 2010 Census - short form
2. Relation to head of household
4. Birth date
6. Residence at time of census
7. Permanent registered address (hukou):
8. Period of time since left permanent registered (hukou) address,
9. Reason for leaving
10. Type of hukou (urban/rural)
11. Literate or illiterate?
12. Highest level of education
13. How many people stayed at current address the night of Oct. 30?
14. How many the night of Oct. 31?
15. Number of births in household in past year
16. Number of deaths in household in past year
17. Size of living area
18. Number of rooms
China's census, by the numbers
1953: 594 million
1964: 694 million
1982: 1.01 billion
1990: 1.13 billion
2000: 1.26 billion
2009 (estimate based on survey): 1.33 billion
90 per cent will get a short-form survey with 18 questions
10 per cent will get a longer-form with 45 questions
5 million enumerators, or one per "census block" of 250-300 people
1 million instructors and supervisors
50 per cent are civil servants borrowed from their departments
50 per cent are being paid for their time
20 government agencies are involved
Field work begins Nov. 1 and lasts until Nov. 20
Processing and analyzing begins Dec. 1 and lasts until December 2011
Preliminary results will be released in April 2011
Total cost estimated at 8 billion yuan, of which central government in Beijing has agreed to pay 1.3 billion yuan
The Great Migration:
Percentage of China's population living in cities:
1978: 18 per cent
1989: 26 per cent
1997: 32 per cent
2002: 39 per cent
2008: 46 per cent
2010: More than 50 per cent (expected)
The income gap:
Factor by which income of top 10 per cent exceeds that of bottom 10 per cent
Sources: China's National Bureau of Statistics; Xinhua news agency; The State of China Atlas, c 2005, 2008, University of California Press