China's Population Might Actually Be a Lot Smaller Than You Think

By That's, June 2, 2017

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India may have already surpassed China to become the most populous nation in the world, one scholar claims.

Last month, Yi Fuxian, an academic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has spent years campaigning against Beijing's family-planning laws, said at a Peking University symposium that China's aging population is far lower than official figures. Yi suggested that Chinese statisticians have actually overstated the country's population since 1990.

READ MORE: China's Population to Peak at 1.45 Billion People by 2030

Yi estimates that China's population at the end of 2016 was 1.29 billion, 90 million fewer than the official figure of 1.38 billion reported by the National Bureau of Statistics. 

Additionally, his research suggested that there were 377.6 million new births in China from 1991 to 2016, less than the reported 464.8 million.

If Yi's estimates are true, that would make India the most populous nation in the world with 1.32 billion people.

India Population

But some critics are questioning Yi's claims. University of California, Irvine demographer Wang Feng and other research experts have expressed skepticism over Yi's conclusion. 

READ MORE: Indian Air Pollution Was Worse Than China's in 2015

Dismissing Yi's claims as "sensational, extremely sloppy and based on highly politicised back-of-the-envelope calculations," Wang said: 

"He's a person with a political agenda and [who has been] a consistent critic of the Chinese government's policy ... [so] his numbers should not be taken at face value...

"I don't disagree with his general criticisms [of China's birth control policy],' Wang added. 'But ... we have to speak from facts or we just speak from conjecture ... I think he just wants to make a point to say that fertility is very low in China, the government has inflated the birth numbers, and [therefore] China should have no birth control policy."

Of China's true population figures, Wang also said: "“I would go with the government number.”

China Population

In 2015, China abandoned its decades-old One Child Policy, replacing it with a two-child policy. China’s rapidly aging population led several of the nation's top think tanks to urge the government to relax the one-child policy, first introduced in 1978, to control the nation’s booming population. 

READ MORE: Birthrates Still Low a Year After Two-Child Policy Enacted

According to recent statistics, 16 out of every 100 Chinese citizens are over the age of 60. That figure is predicted to rise to 40 out of 100 in the next few years.

[Images via Max PixelIndia TV News, Asia Times]

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