China Again Delays Release of Census Data; Expert Speculates Sharp Decline in Population

China Again Delays Release of Census Data; Expert Speculates Sharp Decline in Population
Pedestrians walk past a billboard for China's coming census in Beijing on Oct. 29, 2010. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Winnie Han

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has again delayed the release of the 2020 census results. An expert suspects that the CCP needs time to massage the figures.

The seventh population census of China was completed in early December 2020. In March, China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said that the census results would be released in early April.

However, on April 16, the NBS announced that in order to provide more details, more preparation was needed.

“We will accelerate our work to the next step, and we strive to release the final results of the census as soon as possible,” the NBS stated.

On April 29, the NBS published a one-sentence report that said, “In 2020, China’s population continues to grow, and specific data will be published in the 7th National Census Bulletin.”

The “specific data” have yet to be released.

As early as Nov. 16, 2020, Yi Fuxian, author of the book “Big Country with an Empty Nest,” said in a post on Twitter that he projected the actual population of China in 2020 to be about 1.26 billion to 1.28 billion, rather than the officially announced 1.4 billion in 2019.

He said that “China’s policies are all based on faulty demographic data. After [China] enjoyed the status as the world’s most populous country for thousands of years, that title was taken by India a few years ago.”

By the end of 2016, India’s population had reached 1.326 billion, or 18 percent of the world’s total population.

Sharp Decline in Newborns

A report released on April 29 cites data from the Ministry of Public Security indicates that only 10 million newborns were registered in China in 2020, a significant drop of about 15 percent from 2019.

In 2019, the number of newborns registered was 80.5 percent of the birth number recorded by the Bureau of Statistics. If the same ratio is used to calculate the birth number of 2020, that will result in a decline of over 2 million births in 2020 compared to 2019.

China’s NBS announced on Jan. 17 that China’s total population was 1.4 billion at the end of 2019, an increase of 4.7 million from the end of the previous year.

The report, titled “China Population Report: Births in Many Places Fall by 10–30 Percent,” states that China is unlikely to reach the 1.4 billion population goal in 2020 as projected in the National Population Development Plan (2016–2030).

The report’s author, Soochow Securities chief economist Ren Zeping, further suggests that the number of registered household births in Beijing in 2020 was only 100,000—24.3 percent less than in 2019.

Drop in Births Recorded in Many Cities

Data collected from various regions by the Beijing-based think tank Center for China & Globalization (CCG) show that the number of births in various cities fell by a range of 9 percent to 33 percent from the previous year. That includes a 32 percent decline in Guiyang city, Guizhou Province, and 33 percent in Taizhou city of Zhejiang.

The CCG called for a change in the fertility policy, saying that “given that the number of women of childbearing age in China will continue to decline and that fertility intentions are likely to remain low, we can say that although the number of births in 2020 will be the lowest in recent decades, it is likely to be the highest in the next few decades.”

On April 14, China’s Central Bank published a paper called “Understanding and Responses to Demographic Transition.” The paper reveals that when compared to developed countries, China’s population is aging more rapidly and families are having fewer children.

The paper states that China’s demographic situation has changed, and it’s difficult to compensate for the population decline with education and technological advances.

In another report published by Ren, he states that the aging population and fewer children are the biggest dangers that are being ignored in China. The April 16 report, titled “Aging and Childlessness Are Accelerating and a Complete Lifting of Restriction on Birth Control Is Urgently Needed,” recommends an immediate and full lifting of restrictions on birth control to encourage childbirth.

Extended Delay May Be Related to Pandemic Death Tolls

The extended delay in the release of census data has caused concerns.

“This matter does look strange. On the one hand, the NBS claims that the population continues to grow, but on the other hand, the Central Bank advocates for full lifting of restrictions on birth control. Also, the CCP authorities have not blocked the reports about the declining birth numbers in 2020 released by leading economists and think tanks,” U.S.-based China expert Li Yanming told The Epoch Times.

Li believes that while the decline in births in 2020 may be one reason for the decline in the total population, the bigger reason may be the high number of deaths in the 2020 pandemic.

“It is hard to estimate how many people died last year because of COVID-19,” he said.

According to a report released by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on March 19 last year, the number of cellphone subscribers of China’s three major telecom operators (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom) dropped by 21 million in the first two months of 2020.

The first two months of 2020 was also the time when the pandemic was at its peak in Wuhan, with both hospitals and crematoriums overwhelmed.

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