Asia > Eastern Asia > China > China People Profile

China: China People Profile

2017/07/23

The total population in China was estimated at 1374.6 million people in 2015, according to the latest census figures. Looking back, in the year of 1950, China had a population of 552.0 million people.

India, the next largest country, has 120 million fewer people, for a population of 1.28 billion. The United States, the third largest country in the world, has a much smaller population of 323 million. Estimates show that India will pass China as the most populous nation in the world in the next couple decades.

Unfortunately, there is some confusion around the question of how many people live in China. That's because it is a country of several different parts, not all of which are governed by Beijing.

To understand China's population and demographics, it helps to understand its government a bit. The People's Republic of China (PRC) is governed by the Communist Party with its seat of government in Beijing, which exercises jurisdiction over 5 autonomous regions, 22 provinces, 4 direct-controlled municipalities and 2 primarily self-governing special administrative regions (Macau and Hong Kong). The PRC also claims Taiwan, which is controlled by a separate political entity called the Republic of China (ROC) as its 23rd province. This makes population figures a bit confusing.

The figure quoted at the top of this article, for example, doesn’t include the island of Taiwan, which the PRC claims as a part of China. Nor does it include the former British and Portugese colonies of Hong Kong and Macau, which are governed as special administrative regions.
China Population Density

As a whole, China has an estimated population density of 145 people per square kilometer, or 375 people per square mile. This ranks 81st, despite the country itself being one of the largest in terms of size and the largest in terms of population.

The density figures change dramatically when you look at the largest urban areas, however. Shanghai, the largest city in the country and the world, has a population density of 3,800 people per square kilometer, or 9,900 people per square mile.

A few of China's cities make the list of the top 30 most densely populated cities in the world, although most on the list are in India, the Philippines, France and other countries. Hong Kong is the 8th most densely populated city in the world, with 68,400 people per square mile. Macau follows behind as the 9th most densely populated, with a density of 65,400 people per square mile. Macau tops the list of sovereign states and dependent territories in terms of population density. Despite this tightly packed area, it still has the second highest life expectancy in the world and remains one of the few areas in Asia to receive a "very high Human Development Index" ranking.
China Demographics

China is classified as an upper middle-income country by the World Bank, and its rapid growth over the decades has pulled hundreds of millions of its citizens out of poverty. About 10% of the population in the country lives on $1 USD a day, compared to 64% just 35 years ago.

Although 56 different ethnic groups are officially recognized in China, 91.51% of Chinese are Han Chinese. Only one other group – Zhuang – has a larger than 1% share of the population. Other ethnic groups are growing at a higher rate than Han Chinese, but because of the massive dominance of Han Chinese, this is not expected to dramatically alter China’s ethnic composition.

China is officially an atheist state, and doesn’t survey its people on their religion. Because of this, no accurate figures regarding religious demographics are available. China's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, although any religious organization without official approval faces state persecution. A survey taken in China showed that 85% of Chinese residents have some religious beliefs, while just 15% consider themselves to be atheists.

Chinese culture and civilization has been influenced by many religious movements over the past 1,000 years, and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism are considered the country's "Three Teachings" based on their cultural and historical impact. China has also seen an interesting syncing of these three religions in the form of a folk religion that is common throughout the country.

About 3% of the population is Islamic, with a Christian population estimated to be about 5%. According to some sources, Christianity could represent as much as 20% of China's population by 2025. Buddhism is practiced by 10 to 18% of Chinese residents, while over 30% practice local folk religions.
China's Population History

China has had a rocky population history, littered with war, famine, and natural disasters. Five of the nine most deadly wars took place in China, killing an estimated total of over 123 million people. The most deadly was the Three Kingdoms period (220AD - 280AD), where an estimated 40 million people died from war, famine, and disease. In 1850, a man named Hong Xiuquan led a rebellion to try to create the "Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping." By proclaiming himself to be the younger brother of Jesus, he grew his following to between 10,000 and 30,000 followers, and by late 1850 they controlled over a third of China. During the 15 years of the rebellion, an estimated 20-30 million people died, primarily due to plague and famine.
China's Growth Problems

The size of China's population has long been a hot political issue in China. After rapid population growth in the middle of the 20th century, the Chinese government sought to limit population growth by introducting the famous "one child policy."

The scheme, which rewarded couples that agreed to have just one child with cash bonuses and better access to housing, proved so successful that the birth rate of 1.4 children per woman fell below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. As a result, experts are now concerned that China’s low birth rate, combined with its aging population, will damage it’s future economic development.

The one child policy was met with a great deal of resistance, particularly in rural areas. Families who breach this policy tend to lie on census polls, so the true population of China may be a bit skewed. This means that Chinese population statistics have become less reliable since the policy began in the 1970s. The policy was ended by the Chinese government in 2016.

Much of China’s economic growth has been attributed to its abundant and cheap workforce, combined with its low social costs. With the number of young Chinese falling and the number of elderly Chinese increasing, it is not certain whether China’s economy can continue to grow at the same rapid rate.

China also has an abnormal ratio of male to female births. Whereas in most countries more girls are born than boys, in China the reverse is true. Many suspect that this is because of a preference for boys among Chinese families.

Language

Chinese, a Sino-Tibetan language, is spoken by most of the people in China. There are a large number of dialects, the chief being Cant1se, Fukienese, and Wu. The official language is the Mandarin dialect, officiamounty camounted putonghua (common speech), which is understood by about 70 % of the people. Other languages include Tibetan, spoken in Tibet and parts of China Proper; Turkic, in Xinjiang; Mongol, in Inner Mongolia; and Thai, in parts of southern China.

Formerly, written Chinese was a classical, literary language, in which the construction and much of the vocabulary were different from those of the spoken language. This classical Chinese could be read and understood only by those trained for years in literature. The script itself consisted of thousands of characters, a lot of of them highly complicated. The difficulty of this written Chinese was a principal obstacle to the people becoming literate.

In the 1920's pai hua, a written Chinese approximating eachday speech, began replacing the classical form; now it was possible to learn to read in a few months instead of a lot of years. In addition, the script was simplified. Under the Communists, further steps were taken to simplify reading and writing Chinese; pai hua has replaced classical Chinese in amount publications.

In the late 1970's China adopted the Pinyin System for spelling proper nouns in Roman letters; it was designed for use by foreigners and was intended to give a additional accurate idea of pronunciation than before systems.

Religion

After the Communists came to power in 1949 they began a policy of discouraging religious belief and of closing churches, mosques, and temples. In 1977 the government changed its policy to 1 of tolerance, and the constitution of 1982 guarantees freedom of religion.
 
The religion of most Chinese is a blend of various beliefs and practices, inclundinganimism (the belief in demons and spirits) and ancestor worship. Much of the religious tradition is based on three ethical systems—Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. As practiced by the Chinese, they are religions in a limited sense, and are confined majorly to teaching a code for righteous living and fair transactioning. Their teachings over the centuries have had a profound influence on Chinese customs and attitudes.

The majority influential of the traditional ethical systems is Confucianism, which teaches the need for an amount-inclusive morality. It especiamounty emphasizes respect for 1's parents and love for the family. Buddhism, as taught by its founder, is a way of life emphasizing freedom from desire. Buddhism is strongest in Tibet, where it is known as Lamaism. Taoism, as a philosophy, teaches of human 1ness with nature and urges people to be natural and spontaneous. As practiced, Taoism is a combicountry of magic and ritual.

Muslims are scattered throughout China, but are found majorly in the northern and western areas. They make up about 1 to 2 % of the people. There are as well about 3 to 4 % of Chinese people that practice Christianity.

  City Population
1. Shanghai 14,608,512
2. Beijing 7,480,601
3. Nanchong 7,150,000
4. Tai'an 5,499,000
5. Kaifeng 4,800,000
6. Wuhan 4,184,206
7. Chongqing 3,967,028
8. Chengdu 3,950,437
9. Tianjin 3,766,207
10. Puyang 3,590,000
11. Shenyang 3,512,192
12. Shiyan 3,460,000
13. Harbin 3,229,883
14. Xi'an 3,225,812
15. Lanzhou 3,200,000
16. Guangzhou 3,152,825
17. Nanjing 3,087,010
18. Taiyuan 2,722,475
19. Yunfu 2,612,800
20. Changchun 2,537,421
21. Changsha 2,073,938
22. Jinan 2,069,266
23. Dalian 2,035,307
24. Zhengzhou 2,014,125
25. Shijiazhuang 1,992,474
26. Jilin 1,881,977
27. Hangzhou 1,878,129
28. Nanchang 1,871,351
29. Qingdao 1,642,245
30. Tangshan 1,596,949
31. Xinyang 1,590,668
32. Urumqi 1,508,225
33. Fushun 1,400,646
34. Luoyang 1,390,581
35. Hefei 1,388,904
36. Handan 1,358,318
37. Suzhou 1,343,091
38. Shantou 1,333,973
39. Baotou 1,301,768
40. Anshan 1,199,275
41. Xuzhou 1,199,193
42. Fuzhou 1,179,720
43. Guiyang 1,171,633
44. Dayan 1,137,600
45. Wuxi 1,108,647
46. Datong 1,052,678
47. Xianyang 1,034,081
48. Huainan 1,027,655
49. Kunming 1,023,674
50. Shenzhen 1,002,592
51. Jieyang 1,001,985
52. Baoding 995,652
53. Benxi 987,717
54. Changzhou 949,018
55. Huaibei 903,039
56. Pingdingshan 889,675
57. Qiqihar 882,364
58. Wenzhou 865,672
59. Nanning 803,788
60. Anyang 781,129
61. Hohhot 774,477
62. Xining 767,531
63. Qinhuangdao 759,718
64. Hengyang 759,602
65. Xinxiang 743,601
66. Hegang 743,307
67. Langfang 720,119
68. Ningbo 719,867
69. Yantai 719,332
70. Zhuzhou 709,358
71. Changzhi 699,514
72. Zhangjiakou 692,602
73. Zigong 689,961
74. Fuxin 689,050
75. Huangshi 688,090
76. Liaoyang 687,890
77. Xiangtan 674,189
78. Zibo 669,770
79. Puyang 666,322
80. Nantong 666,251
81. Mudanjiang 665,915
82. Guilin 649,352
83. Zhanjiang 637,790
84. Zhenjiang 632,552
85. Dandong 631,973
86. Shaoguan 628,749
87. Yancheng 628,441
88. Foshan 627,348
89. Panshan 625,040
90. Haikou 615,835
91. Taizhou 612,356
92. Xingtai 611,739
93. Jinzhou 604,269
94. Shuangyashan 600,000
95. Luancheng 597,130
96. Yingkou 591,159
97. Zhangzhou 589,831
98. Xiamen 578,337
99. Bengbu 576,648
100. Shihezi 572,772