A Chinese scholar ignited a heated discussion at this year’s World Economic Forum after stating that the population would fall below one billion by 2100.
Zheng Zhenzhen, member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the population would fall back to levels not seen since 1980. Others have since come forward to argue that this estimate might even be slightly optimistic.
According to the People’s Daily, a number of demographers believe that due to overestimation of fertility rates, the population could even drop as low as 600 million by the end of the century, half the current number of Chinese citizens.
Debate rages over the influence of increasing life expectancy and stagnant fertility rates on the Chinese population. One camp argues that as more people live longer the population would decline far slowly, even if fewer Chinese are born. The other points to the low birth rate and experience of neighboring Asian countries.
Scholar Yi Fuxian predicts that with the universal two-child policy carried out in 2016, the birth rate still only would rise from 1.25 in 2015 to 1.4 in 2017. Based on the development of South Korea and Taiwan, the birth rate would then fall to 1.1 by 2035. This would leave China with a population of 560 million by 2100.
Based on the 2015 World Population Prospects released by United Nations, China’s population will hit 1.004 billion by the end of the century, but the lower bound estimate would see its population drop as low as 613 million.
Some say that the UN overestimates China’s fertility rate. China’s birth rate from 2010 to 2015 was 1.18, 1.04, 1.26 and 1.24 but the report worked on the assumption that the birth rate would average 1.55 from 2010 to 2015.
Closer to home, the Shanghai government is doing its best to keep population numbers down, with a plan to keep the number of people in the city capped at 25 million.
By Katie Ngai
[Image via People’s Daily]