Delaying the Inevitable

China’s long-awaited 2020 population census totals were announced today, and they raised as many new questions as they answered. Official data showed a continued rise in population to 1.412 billion people in China as of the end of last year, in contrast to media reports flagging a potential decline. Statements at the official press conference acknowledged a sharp drop in 2020 new births to 12 million, but emphasized China remained the largest country in the world with several years of population growth ahead.

This will be the first of several notes analyzing the implications of China’s census data, and the extent to which “demography is destiny” for China’s economy. The most significant near-term concern from China’s declining birth rates and urban household formation rates is China’s property market, particularly in northeastern regions already experiencing declining populations. Longer-term, the census data suggest weaker potential GDP growth and a steeper climb to rebalance China’s economy toward consumption-led growth.

Posted May 20, 2021
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