China released its once-a-decade census on Tuesday, rejecting whispers that the country may have reached the inflection point where its population begins to shrink. Still, officials acknowledged the looming demographic challenges ahead with an aging population and a low birthrate.
According to the census, China's population reached 1.41 billion in 2020, up from 1.4 billion in 2019. Average annual population growth over the past decade was 0.53% per year.
"The population growth rate will continue to slow down in the future," said Ning Jizhe, a commissioner of China's National Bureau of Statistics, at a news conference in Beijing.
Ning declined to forecast when China's population will peak, but said China's population will remain above 1.4 billion for a while.
The census report was originally slated for an April release, and its delay prompted speculation. The Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing sources close to the National Statistics Bureau, that the original figure had come in below 1.4 billion and was revised up.
Asked about the delay at the news conference, Zeng Yuping, the bureau's chief methodologist, said officials decided to push back the release to add more details to the report because of public interest.
"That's why it took longer to prepare the data," he said.
China is still the world's most populous country, but India is narrowing the gap.
Chinese economists have warned of a potential demographic crisis if not enough children are born in coming years. It will mean China's society will be strained with fewer young working people to support a larger aging population.
China said its population has reached 1.41 billion in 2020, with "low-speed" growth over the past 10 years, in the closely watched release of its once-a-decade census.
Published : May 12, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Eva Dou