China’s population continues to grow in 2020, contrary to FT report
Published: Apr 29, 2021 08:53 PM
Babies participate in a baby crawling contest at a shopping center in Daxing District, Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 13, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Xin)

Photo: Xinhua

China's population continued to grow in 2020 and the specific data will be released in the bulletin of the seventh national census, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on Thursday. 

The announcement came after a widely circulated report published by the Financial Times, which claimed that China's population census is expected to show the country's first population decline since 1949. The report raised controversy online as many questioned why the release of the national census result was delayed. 

However, several Chinese demographers reached by the Global Times on Thursday clarified that the statistics bureau's data is credible and it is unlikely to show a decline in population in 2020, given that the number of new babies is still higher than the number of deaths. 

But they predicted that China's population is about to start falling in the next year or two, and a declining curve of yearly new births - from 17.86 million in 2016 to 14.65 million in 2019 - indicates that the country should further loosen its population policy. It also shows that there is a possibility to make an adjustment based on changing situation. 

Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert and senior researcher from the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Thursday that the average annual number of deaths in China is 10 million. If the number of new babies in 2020 dropped by 15 percent than that of 2019 (14.65 million babies were born in 2019), it would still be 12 million, which proves that the entire population is unlikely to decline in 2020.   

Data published by the Ministry of Public Security in February shows a total 10.035 million of newborns were recorded in the household registration system in 2020. "Many parents may not have registered their babies, therefore, the number should be more," Huang pointed out.    

"There have been some disparities between the published data of birth population and the calculated ones, but such disparity began narrowing down since 2016 due to the second-child policy and the upgraded statistical techniques," Huang said, noting that there is no motive for the country's statistic authority to fabricate the data. 

China kicked off its seventh national population census in November 2020 and the results were previously scheduled to be released in early April. However, the results have not yet been released. 

At a press conference on April 20, Liu Aihua, spokesperson of the National Bureau of Statistics, explained that "the seventh national census will release more detailed information and significantly increase the number of census communiques on the basis of the information released in the sixth national census."

"As a result, preparation work for the release of the census increased. We will speed up the work and strive to release the final results of the census to the public at an early date," Liu said.