Source: Radio Free Asia
China has taken measures to censor and delete an article revealing a significant decline in birth rates, despite its efforts to encourage population growth. The deleted article reportedly leaked 2023 full-year population figures, uncovering a stark drop in birth rates despite ongoing government campaigns to promote family expansion, according to the Mandarin service of rfa.org on Dec 27.
The leaked information, although yet to be officially confirmed until Jan 17, suggested a concerning decline in newborns. The Mother and Infant Daily news service indicated that 7.88 million babies were born across the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 2023, a staggering decrease of 1.68 million compared to the previous year.
This substantial decline indicates a 3.12 million reduction in the population when considering the 11 million reported deaths in the same year, an amount equivalent to the population of a medium-sized Chinese city, as cited by the City Data account on Baidu‘s Tieba forum site.
The sensitivity surrounding this topic for the ruling Chinese Communist Party was evident as the City Data post had been swiftly deleted by Dec 27 evening local time. The government's eagerness to maintain a positive narrative, particularly regarding the economy, seems to have amplified the suppression of unfavorable demographic news.
The reported figures align with earlier estimates, including predictions by Peking University School of Medicine scholar Qiao Jie, who had forecasted a 40% decline in newborns over the past five years. China Business News quoted Qiao in August, projecting a range of 7-8 million births for 2023.
Moreover, various sources, including the China Philanthropist journal, had earlier anticipated births in 2023 to fall below the 8 million mark based on available data.
The decline in birth rates follows the 2022 report by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, indicating a population decrease of around 850,000, marking the first decline since 1961, coinciding with the end of China’s Great Famine.
President Xi Jinping, responding to plummeting marriage rates and an aging population, recently urged women to embrace traditional values of marriage and child-rearing to rejuvenate the nation. Several major cities like Hangzhou and Zhengzhou had announced cash subsidies for new families, with the Wuhan Donghu High-tech Zone offering the highest known subsidy of 60,000 yuan (US$8,400) per child.
The staggering decline in birth rates coincides with a sharp decrease in the number of Chinese couples marrying for the first time, falling by nearly 56% over the past nine years, as reported by the financial magazine Yicai, citing the 2023 China Statistical Yearbook.
Reasons for this decline are attributed to young people shunning traditional milestones due to economic hardships, widespread youth unemployment, and societal pressures. This trend, labeled as "young refuseniks," reflects a growing phenomenon rejecting conventional paths to adulthood - marriage, mortgages, and family life.
A recent Weibo poll indicated that while the majority saw ages 25-28 as ideal for marriage, nearly 60% delayed marriage due to work demands, educational pursuits, or the necessity of property ownership.
A Chinese expert, preferring anonymity due to concerns of reprisals, attributed the leaked figures as a potential turning point in the population's aging, blaming the stringent three-year zero-COVID policies enforced under President Xi's leadership.
Edited and collated by Team TRC