China's population











China Sticks to Population Control Policy in New Century


President on Population Control, Resources and Environmental Protection





China is a multinational country, with a population com­posed of a large number of ethnic and linguistic groups. Almost all its inhabitants are of Mongoloid stock: thus, the basic classification of the population is not so much Han ethnic as linguistic. The Han (Chinese), the largest group, (Chinese) outnumber the minority groups or minority nationalities in every province or autonomous region except Tibet and Sinkiang. The Han. therefore, form the great homoge­neous mass of the Chinese people, sharing the same cul­ture, the same traditions, and the same written language. Some 55 minority groups are spread over approximately 60 percent of the total area of the country. Where these minority groups are found in large numbers, they have been given some semblance of autonomy and self-govern­ment; autonomous regions of several types have been established on the basis of the geographical distribution of nationalities.

The government takes great credit for its treatment of these minorities, including care for their economic well-being, the raising of their living standards, the provision of educational facilities, the promotion of their national languages and cultures, and the raising of their levels of lit­eracy, as well as for the introduction of a written language where none existed previously. In this connection it may be noted that, of the 50-odd minority languages, only 20 had written forms before the coming of the Communists; and only relatively few written languages, for example, Mongolian. Tibetan. Uighur, Kazakh, Tai, and Korean, were in everyday use. Other written languages were used chiefly for religious purposes and by a limited number of persons. Educational institutions for national minorities are a feature of many large cities, notably Peking, Wu­han, Ch'eng-tu. and Lan-chou.

Four major language families are represented in China: the Sino-Tibetan. Altaic. Indo-European, and Austro-Asiatic. The Sino-Tibetan family, both numerically and in the extent of its distribution, is the most important; within this family, Han Chinese is the most widely spoken language. Although unified by their tradition, the written characters of their language, and many cultural traits, the Han speak several mutually unintelligible dialects and display marked regional differences. By far the most im­portant Chinese tongue is the Mandarin, or p'u-l'ung hua, meaning "ordinary language" or "common language". There are three variants of Mandarin. The first of these is the northern variant, of which the Peking dialect, or Peking hua, is typical and which is spoken to the north of the Tsinling Mountains-Huai River line: as the most widespread Chinese tongue, it has officially been adopted as the basis for a national language. The second is the western variant, also known as the Ch'eng-tu or Upper Yangtze variant; this is spoken in the Szechwan Basin and in adjoining parts of south-west China. The third is the southern variant, also known as the Nanking or Lower Yangtze variant, which is spoken in northern Kiangsu and in southern and central Anhwei Related to Mandarin are the Hunan, or Hsiang, dialect, spoken by people in central and southern Hunan, and the Kan dialect. The Hui-chou dialect, spoken in southern Anhwei, forms an enclave within the southern Mandarin area.

Less intelligible to Mandarin speakers are the dialects of the south-east coastal region, stretching from Shanghai to Canton. The. most important of these is the Wu dialect, spoken in southern Kiangsu and in Chekiang. This is followed, to the south, by the Fu-chou, or Min. dialect of northern and central Fukien and by the Amoy-Swatow di­alect of southern Fukien and easternmost Kwangtung. The Hakka dialect of southernmost Kiangsi and north-eastern Kwangtung has a rather scattered pattern of distribution. Probably the best known of these southern dialects is Can­tonese, which is spoken in central and western Kwangtung and in southern Kwangsi a dialect area in which a large proportion of overseas Chinese originated.

In addition to the Han, the Manchu and the Hui (Chinese Muslims) also speak Mandarin and use Chinese characters. Manchu The Hui are descendants of Chinese who adopted Islam and Hui when it penetrated into China in the 7th century. They are intermingled with the Han throughout much of the country and are distinguished as Hui only in the area of their heaviest concentration, the Hui Autonomous Region of Ningsia. Other Hui communities are organised as au­tonomous prefectures (tzu-chih-cfiou) in Sinkiang and as autonomous counties (tzu-chih-hsien) in Tsinghai. Hopeh. Kweichow, and Yunnan. There has been a growing ten­dency for the Hui to move from their scattered settlements into the area of major concentration, possibly, as firm ad­herents of Islam, in order to facilitate intermarriage with other Muslims.

The Manchu declare themselves to be descendants of the Manchu warriors who invaded China in the 17th century and founded the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911/12). Ancient Manchu is virtually a dead language, and the Manchu have been completely assimilated into Han Chinese cul­ture. They are found mainly in North China and the Northeast, but they form no separate autonomous areas above the commune level. Some say the Koreans of the Northeast, who form an autonomous prefecture in eastern Kirin, cannot be assigned with certainty to any of the standard language classifications.

The Chuang-chia, or Chuang, are China's largest minority group. Most of them live in the Chuang Autonomous Region of Kwangsi. They are also represented in national autonomous areas in neighbouring Yunnan and Kwang­tung. They depend mainly on the cultivation of rice for their livelihood In religion they are animists, worship­ing particularly the spirits of their ancestors, The Puyi (Chung-chia) group are concentrated in southern Kwei­chow, where they share an autonomous prefecture with the Miao group. The T'ung group are settled in small communities in Kwangsi and Kweichow; they share with the Miao group an autonomous prefecture set up in south-east Kweichow in 1956. The Tai group are concentrated in southern Yunnan and were established in two autono­mous prefectures—one whose population is related most closely to the Tai of northern Thailand and another whose Tai are related to the Shan people of Burma. The Li of Hai-nan Island form a separate group of the Chinese-Tai language branch. They share with the Miao people a district in southern Hai-nan.

Tibetans are distributed over the entire Tsinghai-Tibetan plateau. Outside Tibet, Tibetan minorities constitute au­tonomous prefectures and autonomous counties. There are five Tibetan autonomous prefectures in Tsinghai, two in Szechwan, and one each in Yunnan and Kansu. The Tibetans still keep their tribal characteristics, but few of them are nomadic. Though essentially farmers, they also raise livestock and, as with other tribal peoples in the Chi­nese far west, also hunt to supplement their food supply. The major religion of Tibet has been Tibetan Buddhism since about the 17th century; before 1959 the social and political institutions of this region were still based largely on this faith. Many of the Yi (Lolo) were concentrated in two autonomous prefectures—one in southern Szechwan and another in northern Yunnan. They raise crops and sometimes keep flocks and herds.

The Miao-Yao branch, with their major concentration in Kweichow, are distributed throughout the central south and south-western provinces and are found also in some small areas in east China. They are subdivided into many rather distinct groupings. Most of them have now lost their traditional tribal traits through the influence of the Han, and it is only their language that serves to distin­guish them as tribal peoples. Two-thirds of the Miao are settled in Kweichow, where they share two autonomous prefectures with the T'ung and Puyi groups. The Yao peo­ple are concentrated in the Kwangsi-Kwangtung-Hunan border area.

In some areas of China, especially in the south-west, there are many different ethnic groups that are geographically intermixed. Because of language barriers and different economic structures, these peoples all maintain their own cultural traits and live in relative isolation from one an­other. In some places the Han are active in the towns and in the fertile river valleys, while the minority peoples depend for their livelihood on more primitive forms of agriculture or on grazing their livestock on hillsides and mountains. The vertical distribution of these peoples is in zones usually the higher they live, the less complex

their way of life. In former times they did not mix well with one another, but now, with highways penetrating deep into their settlements, they have better opportunities to communicate with other groups and are also enjoying better living conditions.

While the minorities of the Sino-Tibetan language fam­ily are thus concentrated in the south and south-west, the second major language family the Altaic is represented entirely by minorities in north-western and northern China. The Altaic family falls into three branches: Turkic, Mon­golian, and Manchu-Tungus. The Turkic language branch is by far the most numerous of the three Altaic branches. The Uighur, who are Muslims, form the largest Turkic minority. They are distributed over chains of oases in the Tarim Basin and in the Dzungarian Basin of Sinkiang. They mainly depend on irrigation agriculture for a liveli­hood. Other Turkic minorities in Sinkiang are splinter groups of nationalities living in neighbouring nations of Central Asia, including the Kazakh and Kyrgyz. All these groups are adherents of Islam. The Kazakh and Kyrgyz are pastoral nomadic peoples, still showing traces of tribal organisation. The Kazakh live mainly in north-western and north-eastern Sinkiang as herders, retiring to their camps in the valleys when winter comes; they are established in the 1-li-ha-sa-k'o (Hi Kazakh) Autonomous Prefecture. The Kyrgyz are high-mountain pastoralists and are con­centrated mainly in the westernmost part of Sinkiang.

The Mongolians, who are by nature a nomadic people are the most widely dispersed of the minority nationalities of China. Most of them are inhabitants of the Inner Mon­golia Autonomous Region. Small Mongolian and Mongo­lian-related groups of people are scattered throughout the vast area from Sinkiang through Tsinghai and Kansu and into the provinces of the Northeast (Kirin, Heilungkiang, and Liaoning). In addition to the Inner Mongolia Au­tonomous Region, the Mongolians are established in two autonomous prefectures in Sinkiang, a joint autonomous prefecture with Tibetans and Kazakh in Tsinghai, and several autonomous counties in the western area of the Northeast. Some of them retain their tribal divisions and are pastoralists, but large numbers of Mongolians engage in sedentary agriculture, and some of them combine the growing of crops with herding. The tribes, who are de­pendent upon animal husbandry, travel each year around the pastureland—grazing sheep, goats, horses, cattle, and camels—and then return to their point of departure. A few take up hunting and fur trapping in order to supple­ment their income. The Mongolian language consists of several dialects, but in religion it is a unifying force; most Mongolians are believers in Tibetan Buddhism. A few linguistic minorities in China belong to neither the Sino-Tibetan nor the Altaic language family. The Tajik of westernmost Sinkiang are related to the population of Tajikistan and belong to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. The Kawa people of the China-Burma border area belong to the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic family.


Historical records show that, as long ago as 800 вс, in the early years of the Chou dynasty, China was already inhabited by about 13,700,000 people. Until the last years The census of the Hsi (Western) Han dynasty, about ad 2, comparatively accurate and complete registers of population were kept, and the total population in that year was given as 59,600,000. This first Chinese census was intended mainly as a preparatory step toward the levy of a poll tax. Many members of the population, aware that a census might work to their disadvantage, managed to avoid reporting; this explains why all subsequent population figures were unreliable until 1712. In that year the Emperor declared that an increased population would not be subject to tax; population figures thereafter gradually became more accurate.

During the later years of the Pei (Northern) Sung dy­nasty, in the early 12th century, when China was already in the heyday of its economic and cultural development, the total population began to exceed 100,000,000. Later, uninterrupted and large-scale invasions from the north reduced the country's population. When national unifica­tion returned with the advent of the Ming dynasty, the census was at first strictly conducted. The population of China, according to a registration compiled in 1381, was quite close to the one registered in ad 2.

From the 15th century onward, the population increased steadily; this increase was interrupted by wars and natu­ral disasters in the mid-17th century and slowed by the internal strife and foreign invasions in the century that preceded the Communist takeover in 1949. During the 18th century China enjoyed a lengthy period of peace and prosperity, characterized by continual territorial ex­pansion and an accelerating population increase. In 1762 China had a population of more than 200,000.000. and by 1834 the population had doubled. It should be noted that during this period there was no concomitant increase in the amount of cultivable land; from this time on. land hunger became a growing problem. After 1949 sanitation and medical care greatly improved, epidemics were brought under control, and the younger generation became much healthier. Public hygiene also improved, resulting in a death rate that declined faster than the birth rate and a rate of population growth that speeded up again. Population reached 1,000.000.000 in the early 1980s.

Now China has a population of 1,295.33 million. Compared with the population of 1,133.68 million from the 1990 population census (with zero hour of July 1, 1990 as the reference time), the total population of the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and the servicemen of the mainland of China increased by 132.15 million persons, or 11.66 percent over the past 10 years and 4 months. The average annual growth was 12.79 million persons, or a growth rate of 1.07 percent.

The continually growing population poses major prob­lems for the government. Faced with difficulties in ob­taining an adequate food supply and in combating the generally low standard of living, the authorities sponsored Drive a drive for birth control in 1955-58. A second attempt at for birth population control began in 1962, when advocacy of late control marriages and the use of contraceptives became promi­nent parts of the program. The outbreak of the Cultural Revolution interrupted this second family-planning drive, but in 1970 a third and much stricter program was initi­ated. This program attempted to make late marriage and family limitation obligatory, and it culminated in 1979 in efforts to implement a policy of one child per family.

Other developments affected the rate of population growth more than the first two official family-planning campaigns. For example, although family planning had been rejected by Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) in 1958, the Great Leap Forward that he initiated in that year (see below The economy) caused a massive famine that resulted in more deaths than births and a reduction of population in 1960. By 1963 recovery from the famine produced the highest rate of population increase since 1949, at more than 3 percent, although the second birth-control campaign had already begun.

Since the initiation of the third family-planning program in 1970, however, state efforts have been much more ef­fective. China's population growth rate is now unusually low for a developing country, although the huge size of its population still results in a large annual net popula­tion growth.

Below I described the distribution of China’s population by different characteristics.

I. Sex Composition.

Of the people enumerated in the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and servicemen of the mainland of China, 653.55 million persons or 51.63 percent were males, while 612.28 million persons or 48.37 percent were females. The sex ratio (female=100) was 106.74.


II. Age Composition.

Of the people enumerated in the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and servicemen of the mainland of China, 289.79 million persons were in the age group of 0-14, accounting for 22.89 percent of the total population; 887.93 million persons in the age group of 15-64, accounting for 70.15 percent and 88.11 million persons in the age group of 65 and over, accounting for 6.96 percent. As compared with the results of the 1990 population census, the share of people in the age group of 0-14 was down by 4.80 percentage points, and that for people aged 65 and over was up by 1.39 percentage points.


III. Composition of Nationalities.

Of the people enumerated in the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and servicemen of the mainland of China, 1,159.40 million persons or 91.59 percent were of Han nationality, and 106.43 million persons or 8.41 percent were of various national minorities. Compared with the 1990 population census, the population of Han people increased by 116.92 million persons, or 11.22 percent; while the population of various national minorities increased by 15.23 million persons, or 16.70 percent.


IV. Composition of Educational Attainment.

Of the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and servicemen of the mainland of China, 45.71 million persons had finished university education (referring to junior college and above); 141.09 million persons had received senior secondary education (including secondary technical school education); 429.89 million persons had received junior secondary education and 451.91 million persons had had primary education (the educated persons included graduates and students in schools).

Compared with the 1990 population census, the following changes had taken place in the number of people with various educational attainments of every 100,000 people: number of people with university education increased to 3,611 from 1,422; number of people with senior secondary education increased to 11,146 from 8,039; number of people with junior secondary education increased from 23,344 to 33,961; and number of people with primary education decreased from 37,057 to 35,701.

Of the people enumerated in the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and servicemen of the mainland of China, 85.07 million persons were illiterate (i.e. people over 15 years of age who can not read or can read very little). Compared with the 15.88 percent of illiterate people in the 1990 population census, the proportion had dropped to 6.72 percent, or down by 9.16 percentage points.


V. Urban and Rural Population.

In the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities of the mainland of China, there were 455.94 million urban residents, accounting for 36.09 percent of the total population; and that of rural residents stood at 807.39 million, accounting for 63.91 percent. Compared with the 1990 population census, the proportion of urban residents rose by 9.86 percentage points.


Following are the results from the advance tabulation on the geographic distribution of population from the fifth national population census of China:


Population (million)

Beijing Municipality


Tianjin Municipality


Hebei Province


Shanxi Province


Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region


Liaoning Province


Jilin Province


Heilongjiang Province


Shanghai Municipality


Jiangsu Province


Zhejiang Province


Anhui Province


Fujian Province

(excluding the population in Jinmen and Mazu and a few other islands)


Jiangxi Province


Shandong Province


Henan Province


Hubei Province


Hunan Province


Guangdong Province


Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region


Hainan Province


Chongqing Municipality


Sichuan Province


Guizhou Province


Yunnan Province


Tibet Autonomous Region


Shaanxi Province


Gansu Province


Qinghai Province


Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region


Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region


Hongkong Special Administrative Region


Macao Special Administrative Region


Taiwan Province and Jinmen, Mazu and a few other islands of Fujian Province




Because of complex natural conditions, the population of China is quite unevenly distributed. Population density varies strikingly, with the greatest contrast occurring be­tween the eastern half of China and the lands of the west and the north-west. Exceptionally high population densities occur in the Yangtze Delta, in the Pearl River Delta, and on the Ch'eng-tu Plain of the western Szechwan Basin. Most of the high-density areas are coterminous with the alluvial plains on which intensive agriculture is centred.

In contrast, the isolated, extensive western and frontier regions, which are much larger than any European na­tion, are sparsely populated. Extensive uninhabited areas include the extremely high northern part of Tibet, the sandy wastes of the central Tarim and eastern Dzungarian basins in Sinkiang, and the barren desert and mountains east of Lop Nor.

In the 1950s the government became increasingly aware of the importance of the frontier regions and initiated a drive for former members of the military and young intel­lectuals to settle there. Consequently, the population has increased, following the construction of new railways and highways that traverse the wasteland; a number of small mining and industrial towns have also sprung up.

China's population


Migrations have occurred often throughout the history of China. Sometimes they took place because a famine or political disturbance would cause the depopulation of an area already intensively cultivated, after which people in adjacent crowded regions would move in to occupy the deserted land. Sometime between 1640 and 1646 a peas­ant rebellion broke out in Szechwan, and there was a great loss of life. People from Hupeh and Shensi then entered Szechwan to fill the vacuum, and the movement contin­ued until the 19th century. Again, during the middle of the 19th century, the Taiping Rebellion caused another large-scale disruption of population. Many people in the Lower Yangtze were massacred by the opposing armies, and the survivors suffered from starvation. After the defeat of the rebellion, people from Hupeh, Hunan, and Honan moved into the depopulated areas of Kiangsu. Anhwei. and Chekiang, where farmland was lying uncultivated for want of labour. Similar examples are provided by the Nien Rebellion in the Huai River region in the 1850s and '60s, the Muslim rebellions in Shensi and Kansu in the 1860s and '70s, and the great Shensi and Shansi famine of 1877-78.

In modern history the domestic movement of the Han to Manchuria (now known as the Northeast) is the most Migration significant. Even before the establishment of the Ch'ing to dynasty in 1644, Manchu soldiers launched raids into Manchuria North China and captured Han labourers, who were then obliged to settle in Manchuria. In 1668 the area was closed to further Han migration by an Imperial decree, but this ban was never effectively enforced. By 1850. Han settlers had secured a position of dominance in their colonisation of Manchuria. The ban was later partially' lifted, partly because the Manchu rulers were harassed by disturbances among the teeming population of China proper and partly because the Russian Empire time and again tried to invade sparsely populated and thus weakly defended Manchuria. The ban was finally removed altogether in 1878, but set­tlement was encouraged only after 1900. The influx of people into Manchuria was especially pro­nounced after 1923, and incoming farmers rapidly brought a vast area of virgin prairie under cultivation. About two-thirds of the immigrants entered Manchuria by sea, and one-third came overland. Because of the severity of the winter weather, migration in the early stage was highly sea­sonal, usually starting in February and continuing through the spring. After the autumn harvest a large proportion of the farmers returned south. As Manchuria developed into the principal industrial region of China, however, large urban centres arose, and the nature of the migration changed. No longer was the movement primarily one of agricultural resettlement; instead it became essentially a rural-to-urban movement of interregional magnitude. After 1949 the new government's efforts to foster planned migration into interior and border regions produced no­ticeable results. Although the total number of people involved in such migrations is not known, it has been estimated that by 1980 about 25 to 35 percent of the population of such regions and provinces as Inner Mon­golia, Sinkiang, Heilungkiang. and Tsinghai consisted of recent migrants, and migration had raised the percentage of Han in Sinkiang from about 10 to 40 percent of the total. Efforts to control the growth of large cities led to the resettlement of 20,000,000 urbanites in the countryside after the failure of the Great Leap Forward and of 17,-000,000 urban-educated youths in the decade after 1968. Within the next decade, however, the majority of these "rusticated youths" were allowed to return to the cities, and new migration from rural areas pushed urban popu­lation totals upward once again.

China Sticks to Population Control Policy in New Century

China will continue its efforts to control the growth of the population in the 21 century, said Zhang Weiqing, minister of the State Family Planning Commission on November 2, 2000.

At the annual board meeting of the Partners in Population and Development by South-South Cooperation, which opened Thursday in Beijing, Zhang said that keeping a low birth rate is the key task of China' s family planning program in the coming decade.

He said that China has made it a goal to keep the population below 1.4 billion until 2010 on the basis of scientific feasibility study.

In order to realise the goal, China is persisting in popularisation and education about family planning and contraception, and it will make efforts to build a perfect population control system suitable for China's situation, said Zhang.

According to Zhang, population will continue to be a pressing issue for China in the 21st century. The annual net population growth will be more than 10 million at the start of the new century. The population will not decline until it reaches a peak of 1.6 billion in the middle of the 21st century, Zhang said.

At present, China has a large work-age population, which puts a heavy burden on employment. The work-age population will peak at 900 million in the coming decades.

In addition, Zhang predicts that the number of senior citizens over the age of 60 in China will reach 130 million at the end of this year, and will exceed 357 million in 2030, and 439 million in 2050, or a quarter of the total population.

Zhang said that China will stick to family planning policy for a long time depending on future population situation.

President on Population Control, Resources and Environmental Protection

Population control, resources and environmental protection will be three crucial issues in China's march toward becoming a great power in the new century, President Jiang Zemin told a seminar held by the Communist Party of China Central Committee Sunday.

Jiang said that governmental decisions concerning the country's population control, resources and environmental protection demand concerted efforts and cooperation from all walks of life.

Jiang warned that although marked progress had been made during the 1996-2000 period, China is still facing many problems and challenges concerning population, resources and environmental protection in the coming years.

"These issues are directly related to the country's overall development. Failure in handling them may postpone the achievement of China's set goals in terms of social and economic development," said Jiang.

Jiang said that the next few years will be a crucial stage for China to stabilise its birth rate at the current low level and improve population quality.

When dealing with population issues, governments at all levels should better serve the people's needs, and turn the country's birth control efforts into a cause benefiting China's huge populace, Jiang remarked.

Jiang also said that resource-related works should better serve the country's sustainable development. Protection and rational utilisation of resources are to be granted equal importance by administration departments.

Meanwhile, the president called for the establishment of a strict resources administration mechanism, and urged the transformation of the traditional resource-utilising norms, to save natural resources from being wasted.

Jiang suggested the use of new technologies and a complete monitoring system to curb the country's long-standing environmental pollution, while guaranteeing healthy economic development.

Also in his speech, Jiang stressed the importance of improving the regulation of China's scarce water resources and the further construction of irrigation works.