Demographics of China

China is the most populous country/region in the world. In its unified and un-unified forms, it has been forever, so it seems. It certainly has been since the fall of the Roman Empire, although one can argue that the British Empire was larger for a moment. Oddly enough, the pre-eminent position that it has held for over 1,500 years, is about to be surpassed by India. China, in its wisdom brought it population under control decades ago, encouraging smaller families. This has allowed it to further develop and economically grow. Quite simply, if a country’s economic growth is 3% a year, and its population growth is 3% a year, then the average person is basically getting nowhere. This has been the case for many nations in the developing world. China has broken from that pattern.

The population of China (People’s Republic of China) for 2017 is estimated at 1,411 million, or 1.4 billion. This is a staggering figure making it almost five times (4.6 times) as many people as the United States. It is around three times what its population was in 1950. The population in its first official national census taken by the People’s Republic of China in 1953 was 583 million. It was a little hard to determine what the population of China was until the post-war period. Post-war in this case means post-Warlord period, post-Sino-Japanese War, post-World War II and post-Chinese Civil War. The Chinese population was almost four times larger than the United States in 1950/1953, back in the days when we were at war with China in the Korean peninsula. The Chinese population is now growing at a rate of 0.59% percent a year (a half percent a year). This is very low.

The fertility rates in China are 1.62 children per woman (2016) according to National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) and 1.29 in 2016 according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Not sure why there is such a difference. Regardless, this is not replacement rate and well below 2.1. It is a birth rate lower that what we see in many developed countries, although China is a still a developing country. This low birth rate was a result of the one-child policy instituted by the Communist Party in 1979. It appears to have not only worked, but it worked too well. In 2015, the government instituted a two-child policy. According to NHFPC, they are expecting the birth rate to grow to 1.8. I guess this is one of the goals of the 13th Five-Year Plan. This is still not replacement rate. China does have some emigration and immigration, but the population is so massive that this does not have a huge impact on population growth rates.

They have classified 91.51% of the population of China as Han Chinese. Still, 8.5% of 1.5 billion creates some significant minorities. This includes the Tibetians, with at least 2.8 million, and the Turkish Uyghurs estimated at 3.6 million. I ate recently at a Uyghur restaurant in Crystal City, VA. I have never seen to one of those before.

Most likely the Chinese population will experience negative population growth by 2030. The United Nations predicts the Chinese population will be 1.36 billion in 2050. This compares to 402 for the United States and 132 for Russian in 2050. Predicting population over 30 years is not that difficult. On the other hand, there is a projection that Chinese population will decline to 1.02 billion by 2100. I would not hang my hat on that last figure.

The population is aging, with its demographic “pyramid” developing a narrowing at the bottom. The demographic “pyramid” from 2015 is below:

These figures do not include Taiwan (Republic of China) or Macau (Macao Special Administrative Region). It does include the city of Hong Kong. Mainland China claims Taiwan is part of China and has had an army posed across the straights ready to invade for almost 70 years. I am guessing if they have not invaded in the last 70 years, they are not going to invade in the next 70, especially as Taiwan is a major trading partner. I do not expect re-unification as long as Taiwan remains democratic (and it has been since 1991/1996) and China remains a communist dictatorship. Taiwan had a population in 2010 of 23.1 million, and it is growing only very slowly. Macau, with a population of 552,300 in the 2010 census, is effectively under Chinese control, as is Hong Kong (7,097,600 in the 2010 census).

This entry was posted in China, Demographics, National Security Policy by Christopher A. Lawrence. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience. ... Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation. ... His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024). ... Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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