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In the 2010 Forbes ranking of “The World’s Most Powerful People”, the Chinese president Hu JinTao 1, topped the annual ranking for the first time. The Forbes list ranked 68 of the world’s 6.8 billion people based on their ability to “bend the world to their will”2. Forbes described the Chinese president as
“Paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet; exercises near dictatorial control over 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of world’s population. Unlike Western counterparts, Hu can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts.”3
Indeed, China’s population count stands at an estimate of 1,330,141,2954 as of July 2010. With such a huge population, it is the world’s most populated country. It can also be seen in the way that 1 out of every 5 human being in the planet is from China. It is agreeable that having such a large population can be both a boon and a bane to China’s progress. Having a big population would mean that China can be assured of a large consumer market and labor force to support its economical growth. China would also have a big enough army to protect her. However, overpopulation will result if the country is not able to balance the ratio of population to available sustainable resources thus leading to countless social and economical problems.
For the past 50 years, China introduced many policies to curb the exponentially growing population. The most well known policy would be the One-Child Policy. Other factors that would influence the change in demographics on China include immigration/emigration and health standards.
1 http://www.forbes.com/wealth/powerful-people/gallery, assessed on 5th November 2010
2 http://www.2point6billion.com/news/2010/11/05/hu-no-1-obama-no-2-in-forbes-list-of-powerful-people-7924.html , assessed on 5th November 2010
3,4 http://www.forbes.com/profile/jintao-hu , assessed on 5th November 2010
Population Change in China over 50 Years
For the past 50 years, China has seen a remarkable change in its population growth. Back in 1960, China has an estimated population of 662,000,0005 with a total fertility rate of 5.476. As mentioned earlier, China in the year 2010 has an estimated population of 1,330,000,000. However, there has been a drastic decrease in the total fertility rate of only an estimated of 1.5407. In Table 1 below, it records the major demographic statistics for the People’s Republic of China. In generally, it can be seen that there are 4 main stages in the development of China’s population from 1960 to 2010. These 4 main stages are namely a population boom before 1960, followed by a decline in the rate of population growth till 1962, followed by a second period of population growth till 1972 and lastly another period of decline in population growth from 1973 to the present.
Table 1 Major Demographic Statistics for the People’s Republic of China
Crude Birth Rate
Crude Death Rate
Rate of Natural Increase
Total Fertility Rate
Sources: The World Bank http://data.worldbank.org/country/china ; China:The Many Facets of Demographic Change, Calvin. G, Alice. G, Feng. W. Published by Westview Press. Colorado. The Many Facets of Change And Their Interrelations, 1950-1990 page 6
5 China:The Many Facets of Demographic Change, Calvin. G, Alice. G, Feng. W. Published by Westview Press. Colorado. The Many Facets of Change And Their Interrelations, 1950-1990 page 6
6 China:The Many Facets of Demographic Change, Calvin. G, Alice. G, Feng. W. Published by Westview Press. Colorado. The Many Facets of Change And Their Interrelations, 1950-1990 page 6
7 http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?q=china&d=PopDiv&f=variableID%3A54%3BcrID%3A156%2C948, assessed on 6th November 2010
One Child Policy
The One-Child Policy in China was implemented in 1979. It was one of the most ambitious and controversial social implementation in the whole history of China. The main aim of the policy was to curb the exponentially increasing population growth rate and, it works by persuading couples not to have more than one child through the use of penalties and rewards. The Chinese government at that time saw strict population containment as the essential drive to economic and social improvements. It is important to note that by the time the One-Child Policy was conceived and implemented, China has had an already huge population base of one billion people8. At that time, the huge population had caused a massive pressure on the country’s infrastructure. There were serious housing shortages, poor public transportation services, underdeveloped communication facilities and inadequate education institutions.
There was a strong need for the Chinese government to tackle these impending problems at hand.
In table 2, it charts the fertility rate over the period of 1960 to 2008. From the graph it can be seen that the One-Child Policy was not the biggest factor in bringing down the whole fertility rate in China. However, it was the One-Child Policy that kept the rebounding of the fertility rate back to the sky high rate in the 1960s.
Table 2 Total Fertility Rate for the People’s Republic of China
Source: The World Bank http://data.worldbank.org/country/china
8 China:The Many Facets of Demographic Change,wang Feng. Published by Westview Press. Colorado. A Decade of the One-Child Policy: Achievements and Implications, 1950-1990 page 98
It was also the works of the One-Child Policy that allowed China to face a much slower increase in population throughout the years. In a special interview that was conducted by China.org.cn in year 2002 with Mr Zhao Bingli, vice minister of the State Family Planning Commission, Mr Zhao Bingli was quoted saying
“After 30 years of efforts, exponential population growth has been effectively controlled, and some 300 million births have been prevented. Under undeveloped economic circumstances and in a relatively short period of time, the country has realized a remarkably low birth rate.”9
This shows that with the implementation of the One-Child Policy did impede and influence the population change of China.
Human migration would also play a part in influencing a country’s population demographics. There would be a dip in the country’s population if a large number of citizens are moving out and leaving their native country. In China’s case, population migration has a clear physical link between China and the international economy. In the past 50 years or so, China has seen a remarkable increase in migration volume of its people.
During the period starting from 1960s to early 1970s, the main flow out of China was to Hong Kong with close to 10,00010 persons a year movement. The main reason for the Chinese to seek residence outside their native country could be to seek better employment opportunities or to seek better living conditions.
China has also been actively sending her students abroad for training in aid of facilitating the transfer of knowledge back home. By 1990s, China was the major source of foreign students in United States, Australia and Canada collages11. This is important because of the large number of Chinese students abroad and the number of students that actually return back to China after their studies. According to official Chinese sources, only about one third of the 220,00012 Chinese students has since returned back to China from 1979.
9 http://www.china.org.cn/english/2002/Oct/46138.htm, assessed on 09 November 2010
10,11,12 http://www.iupui.edu/~anthkb/a104/china/chinamigration4.htm, assessed on 09 November 2010
Improved health standards
In Table 1 above, it can be seen that there has been a drastic decrease in the crude death rate from 1960 to 2010 in China. The crude death rate is significant in assessing a population change in any country. Having a decrease in crude death rate would mean that there is an improvement in medical technology, health care services, and nutrition and transportation developments.
People in China are living longer and having a longer life expectancy due to the improvement in health standards. With the low fertility rate due to the implementation of the One-Child Policy and an increase in life expectancy, China’s population would soon have an imbalance number of old to young. This would result in the phenomenal of an aging population.
Table 3 Demographic Structure of the Chinese Population
Source: Aging China: The Demographic Challenge to China’s Economic Prospects. Robert Stowe England. 2005. Published by Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C. Demographic Shapes the Society, page 16
Table 4 Youth and Older Dependency Ratios in China
Source: The US Census Bureau Report An Ageing World : 2008 http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/p95-09-1.pdf Page 96
In a Population Report of China in 2008, it was recorded that over 30% of the entire population in China were under the age of 20 with 10% of the entire population aged 60 and above. By 2010, the babies born in the post-war baby boom will enter the elderly sector, and this will result in a rapid growth in the aged population. This is reflected by the increase in median age from 22.8 in 1953 to 34.2 in 2010, as shown in the Table 3 above.
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