The results from China’s once-a-decade census are set to confirm the worrying picture of a rapidly ageing society, shrinking labour force and an insufficient number of newborns. For analysts who are trying to gauge China’s economic and social development potential over the coming years or even decades, the population data is vital. The figures are expected to be released later this month.
In fact, the data will provide key metrics pertaining to some of the biggest questions surrounding China’s future: whether the nation can replace the US as the world’s largest economy, whether China can create a large enough domestic market to accommodate its vast production apparatus, and whether China will remain a vibrant and ambitious society or become a more inward-looking and strenuous one.
The most important number is the headline population total. Official Chinese data put the mainland population at 1.4 billion by the end of 2019. That was enough to maintain its centuries-long status as the world’s most populous nation, but India appears to be closing the gap, with 1.38 billion people as of mid-2020.