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China challenges claims of declining population as census release postponed

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China challenges claims of declining population as census release postponed
China’s 2020 Census has been delayed amid reports the country’s population is declining for the first time in decades. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

April 29 (UPI) -- China said the nation's population is increasing, after multiple press reports suggested the number of newborn babies is on the decline.

Beijing's National Bureau of Statistics posted a one-sentence statement on Thursday that claimed China's population grew in 2020, without providing evidence to back the claim. The government has delayed the release of results of the 2020 Chinese Census, the nation's seventh census, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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China is addressing population concerns as sources familiar with the census warned of a decline.

The 2020 census concluded in December and the official number could fall under 1.4 billion. The average number of children a woman was likely to have also could be less than 1.5, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

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Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, told the newspaper that the problem of population decline is a serious matter.

"The pace and scale of China's demographic crisis are faster and bigger than we imagined...That could have a disastrous impact on the country," the analyst said.

But Huang also said results need to be handled "very carefully."

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"The census results will have a huge impact on how the Chinese people see their country and how various government departments work," Huang said.

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A decrease in China's population could strain the economy. The changes could lead to a decline in the labor supply and an aging population would require increased spending on senior citizen care and welfare.

China for decades pursued population control with its one-child policy. The policy, which penalized couples for a second child, was terminated Oct. 29, 2015.

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A source based in Beijing identified as a government adviser told the Financial Times that authorities determining budgets have overestimated China's population.

"There is an incentive for local governments to play up their [population] numbers so they can get more resources," the source said.

China's population has not declined since the Great Leap famine between 1959 and 1961, according to reports.

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