Last updated by david at 2013-11-27
The official figure of the population in China today is considered at approximately 1.3 billion among which approximately 150 millions are over the age of 60 years.
As the world's population is approximately 6.7 billion, China represents a full 20% of the world's population so one in every five people on the planet is a resident of China; its surface of 9 600 000 km2 nourishes the fifth of humanity.
In the year 2030, the official forecasts say that India will exceed China and will become the country the most populated in the world. At the moment, China is the world's most populous country and the government tries to apply policies which maintain a moderate growth rate.
The population of China began to increase in a significant way during and after the reign of the Ming dynasty as the population was below 100 millions. During the following Qing dynasty, the 200 million people were achieved and for the next 300 years, a multiplication of the population by five. It is the fastest progress of growth of population among all the nations in the history.
The famine in 1958 and the rebellion of Taiping, a civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, took the life of 50 million persons. A lot of people died during the Second World War as well. It arrived at a time when China doubled its total population every century! These 50 million were only a part with regard to the total number of the Chinese population.
The two big rise of population during the Ming and Qing dynasties can be explained by the fast intensification and the development of the farming, where the majority of the population were implied. The population of China migrates towards big cities -zones weakly populated-, what succeed in the economic growth and provoked a massive overpopulation of those cities as an immediate result.
This growth of Chinese population was followed by the introduction of new cultures which came from America and from Europe. The improvement of the means of irrigation also allowed the Chinese to improve their living conditions, and thus their life expectancy. A very interesting fact is that China began to double and to triple its population before its industrial revolution. No other country doubled its population so early in the history; most of the other countries saw their population increasing in number at the same time as the modern technology was introduced.
The last two decades, are considered as a success of the government to put under control the enlargement of the population. The one child policy, in effect since 1979, had immediate profits by reducing the strong increase of the Chinese population but also has brought numerous controversies. In the rural zones, lived mainly by minorities, this politic took time to be applied. The rates of birth and mortality were successfully reduced to acceptable values during the years.
Today softened, it officially restricts married, urban couples to having only one child, while allowing exemptions for several cases, including rural couples, ethnic minorities, and parents without any siblings themselves.
Cities the most populated in China include Chonqing, Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu. In China, approximately 200 cities have a population of over 1 million inhabitants. In Shanghai, there are more than 50,000 inhabitants by km ², what makes a zone of density of almost 2.5 times that of New York.
According to certain statistics, the demographic profile of China is very interesting. There are more men than women in China for example. But according to another investigation the women are more numerous than the men when they reach the age of 70 years!
China illustrates –in a tremendous way- the problems the countries with such a fast demographic transition will have to face in the decades to come.
According to recent estimations, the Chinese population should reach 1.6 billion inhabitants in 2040.
Then, it should fall again, below 1.4 billion in near 2100.
Those are important fluctuations which affect 20 % of the world population and which raise serious effects on food supply, employment, urbanization and the ageing of the population.
For example, in China, the production of cereal will have to increase by 4.47 million tons a year to answer the increase of the population by 2020. For that purpose, it will be necessary to improve appreciably the agricultural technology and the management of the resources of the ground. China will maybe have to increase its imports of cereal to a rate of 40, even 50 million tons a year. But if there is a delay in the development and research, the risk to have to import much superior quantities will be major and could achieve up to 300 million tons. It would be a good news for its main suppliers such as the United States and Australia, for example, but a disaster for the poor populations of the whole world, in particular those of the urban zones, who will have to face a rise in prices of foodstuffs.
In the field of the employment, the population old enough to work will reach the 955 million individuals in 2020.
The massive increase of the offer of workforce will concern mainly the urban market, what will raise crucial social and ecological troubles, even if, at first, the investors can take advantage of a cheap workforce. The population old enough to work will decrease after 2020 to reach the 800 million persons towards the end of the century. As the proportion of the new incomers on the market will be decreasing, the progress recorded in the domains of training and the levels of qualifications will slow down, what will lead to a fall of the productivity.
The 20th-century will be for China a period of fast urbanization
The rate of urbanization exceeded the 50 % in 2011, what means that the Chinese urban population exceeded for the first time in the history the rural population. According to the estimations, before the end of the century, approximately 90 % of the population will live in cities and 1.2 billion in 2060 which is approximately the current total population of the country. This quasi-trebling will have strong repercussions on the construction and the management of the resources.
Other demographic trend to be taken into account: the ageing of the population. China is one of the countries that have the lowest fertility in developing countries and registers, indeed, a rough fall of this rate which is situated below the threshold of reproduction. In Beijing, already no more than 1.4 in 1.5 births by woman is counted. In Shanghai, this figure falls to 0.96 births by woman. In other words, an increasing number of women have no more children. This situation will cause a fast ageing of the Chinese population: by 2025, the average age will be of 40 years while it was only of 27 years in 1995. Obviously, the care of the elderly will be a very heavy problem to manage for the Chinese authorities because the family constitutes the only system of "social welfare" for the major part of the poor population. So far in 2025, the parents will have not many children on whom to count to meet their needs.
The disturbing effects of the celibacy
More and more Chinese have only a single child and, mostly, they wish whether it is a boy. In reality, the social order exercises strong pressures on families so that they make sure that their future child will be a boy. The selective abortion and the infanticide against the girls are current practices, so that the proportion between girls and boys in China is totally unbalanced. The problem for the men arisen from this selective practice is that they will have to pay the price of this privilege by wives' shortage. It means that eventually, there will be fewer children.
Indeed, by 2020, the surplus of young men between 20 and 30 years will be higher to all the feminine population of Taiwan. This imbalance between the sexes will begin by deteriorating before easing. The selective abortions will go by multiplying, not only for the second and third births, but also for the first one. It will result from it of strong social tensions. Numerous young men will have to be resolved in the celibacy.
As for the women, they will be less numerous and it is not certain that the situation of inferiority in which they are at present maintained will be improved. To have insurances in this respect, it would be necessary to strengthen the laws which forbid the discrimination and establish the equality of the rights of the women. The Chinese authorities could also give up their one child plan and let the family get bigger. However, without a strategy of family planning and a real revolution which would consist in recognizing the rights of the women, we shall simply be returned to the initial problem, namely the fast increase of the population.
China’s real difficulty to solve now is not only overpopulation but also a low population trouble.
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