According to the 21st Century Business Herald, a Chinese business-news daily newspaper published in China, at least 26 prefecture-level cities have disclosed their population data. Eight of them see that their natural population growth rate has turned negative. A prefectural-level city is an administrative division that ranks below a province and above a county in the country’s administrative structure.
The eight cities include the northeastern cities of Shenyang and Fushun, five cities in Jiangsu province – Taizhou, Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Changzhou and Wuxi – as well as Weihai in Shandong province. In 2020, Wuxi, a city with a household population of more than 5 million, registered a birth rate of 7.75 percent, a death rate of 7.91 percent and a natural population growth rate of -0.16 percent. Some cities are also on the verge of negative growth, such as Wuhu from Anhui province, Jiaxing and Ningbo from Zhejiang province, with natural population growth rates of 0.12 percent, 0.43 percent and 0.75 percent respectively.
Jiangsu ranks among the richest provinces in China. In 2020, it reported a gross regional product of 10.27 trillion yuan (US$1.58 trillion), becoming the second province to break 10 trillion yuan after Guangdong. Jiangsu’s GDP per capita reached 125,000 yuan (US$19,230), ranking first in the country. The city of Wuxi has an economy of 1.2 trillion yuan (US$180 billion); Changzhou, Yangzhou and Taizhou’s economic volume also range between 530 billion and 770 billion yuan.
Cai Fang, a member of the Monetary Policy Committee of China’s Central Bank, stated at a recent meeting that China’s total population will peak in 2015 and then decline afterwards. The People’s Bank of China released a research paper on April 14, calling for the complete removal of restrictions on childbirth and easing the difficulties that women encounter in pregnancy, childbirth, childcare and schooling, so that “women dare to have children, can have children and want to have children.”
Yi Fuxian of the University of Wisconsin in Madison is skeptical. “This involves a series of reforms … and is more difficult than (the reform) in 1979. The government can’t do anything if they don’t want to or they can’t give birth. The only thing it can do is to (solve) the problem of not being able to afford to have children. This requires real money, but local governments are cheapskates and no one is willing to pay money to encourage childbirth. Education, health care and childbirth subsidies all need money. Raising consumption taxes would lead to a decline in economic vitality.”
Source: Radio Free Asia, April 21, 2021