Demographic development in ChinaAfter the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese population developed rapidly over the following decades. To counteract this explosion in population, the so-called one-child policy was introduced in 1979. Although the policy was effective in slowing down population growth, it was controversially discussed because of multiple negative side effects. One of those negative effects, the shift towards an older median age of the Chinese population, eventually caused the government to revise the policy. In October 2015, the existing law was changed to a two-child policy, and in July 2021, all limits were finally removed.
However, this policy shift did not seem to have a lasting effect on the birth rate: the total number of births in China increased for a couple of years, but then fell again considerably in 2018. In 2022, the population growth finally dropped to -0.06 percent, most probably also affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The aging society will lead to a rising old-age dependency ratio in China, which is expected to grow to 51.5 percent by 2050 from below 20 percent today. This means two working adults will by then statistically have to support roughly one person aged above 65 years.
Urbanization in ChinaApart from population size, urbanization in China has gained momentum following the initiation of the reform and opening policy in 1978. By the end of 2022, around 65 percent of the Chinese population resided in cities and towns, a dramatic increase from less than 20 percent in 1980. In 2022, around 921 million people were living in urban areas of China while 491 million people lived in rural areas. The urbanization rate is generally higher in eastern and southeastern China, which are economically better developed coastal regions, although the lesser developed western and central regions are keeping up in recent years.
The majority of the Chinese people live in the eastern provinces and municipalities of the country. The regions form a broad arc reaching from the northern city of Harbin through Beijing, Shanghai and all the way down to Guangdong. Guangdong is the most populous province in China with a population of approximately 127 million people by the end of 2021, followed by Shandong, Henan, and Jiangsu provinces with around 102, 99 and 85 million inhabitants respectively. The autonomous region of Tibet was the least inhabited region in the country with only 3.7 million inhabitants in 2021.