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China experienced its first population decline since 1961, with the world’s most populous country facing a demographic crisis, Axios reported Tuesday.
The country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said there were 1.41175 billion people living in China at the end of 2022 – a drop of about 850,000 compared with the previous year.
Data from the NBS also showed that 9.56 million babies were born in China while more than 10 million died in 2022. The number of births marked a record birth rate of 6.77 per thousand, according to NBC News.
Tuesday’s announcement also followed official reports that the Chinese economy grew three percent last year – falling shy of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 5.5 percent target.
Meanwhile, China is currently dealing with an increase in coronavirus deaths after abandoning its zero-COVID policy, which saw severe restrictions such as lockdowns hurt the Chinese economy and disrupt global supply networks.
Despite the bleak figures, NBS Director Kang Yi noted the economy is expected to improve this year as the country emerges from its coronavirus pandemic isolation. He added that China’s population decline was not a reason for concern and that total labor supply still exceeded demand.
Still, China has been experiencing declining birth rates for about a decade, which risks undermining the CCP’s consumption-driven growth model. The decline has also prompted analysts to question whether Beijing will surpass the US as the world’s largest economy.
According to the United Nations, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populated country this year.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has in recent years imposed a series of measures to address the decline, such as rescinding its notorious one-child policy and allowing couples to have up to three children.
But the public has mostly responded with indifference: According to a report published last year by the YuWa Population Research Institute, a Beijing-based think tank, the desire to have children in China ranks among the lowest in the world.