The National Bureau of Statistics' "Notice on 7 Typical Cases of Agricultural Census Fraud and Falsification" released December 27, 2018 listed seven examples of fraud and interference by local officials uncovered by follow-up inspections carried out during 2017 and 2018 (the census was conducted in early 2017). In spot checks of rural households in several counties, residents said they had never been contacted by census enumerators. In other instances, the data transmitted by enumerators' handheld electronic devices did not match data on paper report forms. In once case, inspectors found stacks of blank report forms.
- In Shanxi Province's Pingguan County inspectors surmised that census enumerators had filled in households' census report forms themselves using administrative records and by making phone calls.
- In counties in Jilin and Jiangxi Provinces, local officials ordered village cadres to fill in census tables to meet objectives passed down to them.
- In Gansu Province's Jingchuan County, local forestry bureau officials ordered census takers to falsify reports of the area covered by forests and fruit orchards. Similarly, area covered by tea plantations was "seriously" exaggerated in a district of Sichuan Province.
- In Hubei Province's Zhijiang City signatures on survey forms did not match those on electronically reported materials, data was changed without knowledge of respondents, and the business income from "scaled-up" farms was inflated.
Similar census enumeration problems were reported at the local level in the previous agricultural census in 2006. Problems in the 2016 census occurred despite veiled exhortations to actually go out and visit villages and households and avoid political interference issued when the agricultural census was kicked off two years ago.
Despite its importance, there is no indication of how widespread the problems were in the agricultural census. The Bureau released a set of communiques and bare bones census results. In October the Bureau revised its agricultural statistics from the past 10 years based on the census results. No detailed data have been published yet. This month, the Bureau resolved to work harder on agricultural and rural statistics in order to implement Xi Jinping's directives to carry out the rural revitalization and poverty alleviation initiatives. The Bureau pledged to find out what the rural population really is and to base its improvements in agricultural commodity surveys and rural poverty monitoring on the results of the agricultural census.
The deep roots of these problems are revealed by a comment on Chinese statistics written in 1895 by W.A.P. Martin in his book A Cycle in Cathay (p. 460):
"Owing to imperfection in their mode of enumeration, strict accuracy is not to be expected. A governor of a province will sometimes add what he supposes to be the probable increment to an old census, instead of taking the trouble to make a new one."