Population Declines in 16 of China’s Provinces, While 11 Have Fewer Births Than Deaths

Among China’s 31 provinces and municipalities, 16 provinces had a lower population in 2021 than the year before; while 11 provinces had lower birth rates than death rates, according to official data collected last year.

The data comes from notices published by local authorities as well as the China Statistical Yearbook.

By the end of 2021, China’s total population reached 1. 41 billion, a small increase of only 480,000 from the end of 2020, according to the data.

About 10. 62 million babies were born in 2021, a decrease of 1.4 million from 2020; and 10. 14 million people passed away, an increase of 160,000 from 2020. Natural population growth rate was 0. 34 percent.

China’s population has seen a decline in the last few years. From 2016 to 2021, the net population growth in China was 9. 06 million, 7. 79 million, 5.3 million, 4. 67 million, 2. 04 million, and 480,000, a sharp drop of 95 percent in a six-year span.

Provinces Seem to be Declining in the Population

Looking at the data in each province, by the end of 2021, 14 provinces and two municipalities saw a decrease in population compared with the end of 2020, of which Henan Province and the three northeastern provinces have the biggest population decline.

Among the 27 provinces in China, the largest population decrease is in Henan Province, the fourth most populous province in China, which decreased by 580,000 compared with the end of 2020; followed by Heilongjiang Province, which has decreased by 460,000. Other provinces with relatively large population declines include Yunnan (-320,000), Liaoning (-260,000), Jilin (-240,000), Hunan (-230,000), Hebei (-160,000), Gansu (-110,000) and Shanxi (-100,000).

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In addition, Tibet had zero population growth in 2021; while the total population of Qinghai, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Shaanxi, and Jiangxi provinces only increased from 10,000 to 20,000 compared with the end of 2020, which is tiny compared to their total population bases.

People are cooling off in a pool to escape the hot weather at a water park in Huaian, in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province on July 18, 2022. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

At the end of 2021, there were 13 provinces with population growth, of which Hubei Province had the largest increase of 850,000 people, followed by Zhejiang Province with an increase of 720,000, and Guangdong Province with an increase of 600,000.

There are four cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai Tianjin and Chongqing. The population of three municipalities has remained the same. The total population of Beijing at the end of 2021, which stood at 21. 886 million, decreased by 4,000 compared with the end of 2020. Shanghai’s year-end population of 24. 894 million merely increased by 14,000, and Chongqing’s 32. 12 million only increased by 30,000.

Tianjin is the only municipality with a population decrease, but the drop was 140,000, quite a noticeable drop for a city that reported a population of 13. 73 million in 2021.

Birth, Death and Rates

So far, 28 provinces and municipalities in China have released birth rates and death rates, of which 11 provinces have fewer birth numbers than the number of deaths.

Chongqing and Shanghai had the lowest number of deaths than births. Shanghai had 23,000 fewer births than deaths, with a natural population growth rate of -0. 92 percent; Chongqing’s natural population growth rate of -1. 55 percent. In Beijing, the number of births in 2021 was slightly higher than the number of deaths, and the natural population growth rate, birth rate minus death rate, was 0. 96 percent.

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Women push baby strollers along a business street in Beijing on July 13, 2021. (Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images)

The three Northeastern Provinces Heilongjiang and Jilin have significant population declines. They rank among the Top Three in All Chinese Provinces. Heilongjiang Province has a natural growth rate of -5. 11 percent, Liaoning Province -4. 18 percent, Jilin Province -3. 38 percent, respectively.

Guangdong Province, which ranks first in China in terms of GDP in 2021, had a total population of 127 million at the end of 2021, with a birth population of 1. 18 million, both ranking first in China. In addition, the natural population growth rate of Guangdong Province in 2021 ranks fourth in China, at 4. 52 percent.

Guangdong Province is a key economic province of China and has benefited from the inflow of people. Data from the 7th census shows that in the ten years from 2011 to 2020, the population of Guangdong Province increased from 107 million to 126 million, a total increase of 18. 68 million.


Anne Zhang writes for The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related subjects. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2014.

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