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Is China’s population contracting? Beijing withholds 2020 census data, suspicions of a decline grow

The communist regime has not given any explanation for the delay in submitting the report. A report in the Financial Times newspaper noted that the survey exposes a demographic decline that has not been observed in the country since the famine that killed millions between 1959 and 1961

File photo: Census workers collect information from a woman in Lianyungang, east China’s Jiangsu Province, on November 1, 2020 (STR / AFP)

China’s population grew last year, the statistics bureau in Beijing reported on Thursday in an apparent attempt to quell reports that he had fallenBut the authorities did not say from what year the figures had increased.

The newspaper Financial times published Tuesday that China was to report that its population fell below 1.4 billion last year from 2019, in the first decline in five decades, citing people familiar with the matter.

The National Statistics Office has delayed the publication of the results of the census carried out in 2020 -which is carried out once every 10 years-, without any explanation except to say that it required more preparatory work. He was to announce the results in early April.

“According to our understanding, in 2020, the population of our country continued to grow,” said the office in a one-sentence statement. The authority added that detailed figures will be revealed when the census results are released. The unusual decision to respond to information published by the Financial times It reflects how sensitive this question is.

Census workers collect information from residents in Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu Province, on November 1, 2020 (STR / AFP photo)

Census workers collect information from residents in Lianyungang, east China’s Jiangsu Province, on November 1, 2020 (STR / AFP photo)

Births in China have continued to fall despite a two-child policy that replaced a one-child limit, a rule that lasted for decades and was lifted in 2016 in hopes of increasing the number of babies.

Last year, births plummeted 15% to 10,035 million since 2019, the Public Security Ministry said.

The 2010 census showed the continental population to be 1.34 billion. By 2019, this had risen to 1.4 billion, the statistics office said in February last year.

On Thursday, the bureau did not specify whether 2020 growth was being measured from 2019 or 2010, which means that the population could still have increased since the last decade but have decreased since the previous year.

File photo: Women in front of a supermarket in Qinzhou, Guangxi province, China, on April 12, 2021 (REUTERS / Thomas Peter)

File photo: Women in front of a supermarket in Qinzhou, Guangxi province, China, on April 12, 2021 (REUTERS / Thomas Peter)

The population number is very sensitive and will not be released until government departments have reached a consensus on the data and its implications, said the Financial Times.

The ruling Communist Party has imposed birth controls to limit population growth since 1980, But a sudden drop would cut the workforce at a time when it is trying to prop up its growth and reduce poverty.

An unexpected population drop would pressure Beijing to quickly take steps to encourage people to have more children and avoid an irreversible decline.

In recent months, state media have said the population could start to shrink in the next few years. In 2016, Beijing set a goal of increasing the population to around 1.42 billion by 2020.

A man wearing a mask walks past portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the late Chinese President Mao Zedong on a street in Shanghai, China.  February 10, 2020. REUTERS / Aly Song

A man wearing a mask walks past portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the late Chinese President Mao Zedong on a street in Shanghai, China. February 10, 2020. REUTERS / Aly Song

The last time the Chinese population fell was between 1959 and 1961, during Mao Zedong’s failed Great Leap Forward campaign, which caused widespread famines.

China’s population has long been expected to peak and fall in line with trends in South Korea and other developing Asian economies. But the researchers point out that, in China, that decline could start before it reaches its income levels.

Developed economies like Japan and Germany are trying to come up with the formula to support aging populations with dwindling workforces. But they can take advantage of decades of investment in foreign factories, technology and assets, while China has less wealth and its industries need a young workforce.

With information from Reuters and AP

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