China may have 90 million fewer people than official data suggests.  According to University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Yi Fuxian, speaking at a symposium at Peking University on Monday, China’s real population may have been about 1.29 billion last year.  That’s 90 million fewer people than the official figure released by the National Bureau of Statistics; the difference amounts to about twice the size of Spain’s entire population. 

According to Yi, China’s official population data has been overstated since 1990.  His research suggests that there were 377.6 million new births from 1991 to 2016, less than the official figure of 464.8 million.  According to the South China Morning Post, Yi’s theory of overstated government data was echoed by other researchers attending the forum which called for the removal of population controls and improved data quality. 

Liang Zhongtang, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, also questions the accuracy of the official birth data:

“The population data since the adaption of one-child policy has been seriously false and the family planning report has been overstated by 30 per cent … The birth control policy which has lasted nearly four decades is not in accordance with reality. It is imperative that the government should abandon the family planning system.”

The research means that China’s rapidly ageing population and shrinking workforce may now be more serious than already feared.  China already has the world’s largest population aged over 60. The figures would also mean that India may take over from China as the world’s largest country sooner than was previously thought. 

Yi is the author of the book Big Country with an Empty Nest, an influential book which argues that China is in need of more births and should end forced population control which has created gender imbalance and inevitably inhumane consequences.  Many Chinese bachelors must now go to extreme lengths to find a wife and there are wide-reaching economic consequences of the increasingly aged population.

With Chinese birth rates hardly taking off since the government’s change to a two child policy, Li’s research makes the case stronger that it is time for China to get rid of population control altogether.   

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Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...