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China’s Census 2021: 5 Takeaways for Foreign Investors

China released data from its once a decade census on May 10, 2021, offering new insights on the country’s demographic trends.

The census, which was the first since 2010, showed that China’s population is growing at a slower pace than before, aging quickly, and becoming increasingly well-educated. Moreover, internal migratory trends reveal regional distinctions in economic vibrancy and quality of life.

Due to China’s historically rapid economic development and initiatives, such as the one-child policy, the country has a demographic profile that is distinct from any other country.

Here, we look at what five demographic trends revealed by the census mean for foreign investors, industry growth, and macro-economic development in China.

1. China is still the world’s most populous country and offers an unparalleled consumer base

The census results reaffirmed China’s status as the world’s most populous country, as the population grew by 72 million, or 5.38 percent, since the last census in 2010, for a total of 1.41 billion. That means that 18.11 percent of the world’s population is found within China’s borders. The new population added over the last decade alone is more than the entire population of countries, such as France, Italy, and Thailand.

Yet, it was the slowest population increase since the People’s Republic’s first modern census in 1953. China had 12 million births in 2020, the lowest since 1961 when the country suffered a famine, compared to 14.65 million in 2019. From 2010 to 2020, the population grew at an average rate of 0.53 percent per year.

China’s slowing population growth means that India, which in 2020 had a population of 1.38 billion and a higher birth rate, will likely become the world’s most populous country in the coming years. However, in contrast to India – and even China 10 years ago – China’s combination of population size and wealth make it an unmatched consumption market.

Where the opportunity lies

In 2020, China’s GDP per capita was US$10,483.88, while India’s was US$1,964.88, according to the IMF. Thus, while India will soon surpass China in population size, China will remain a far more valuable market for the foreseeable future given the far higher spending power and disposable income of individual consumers.


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