Population Growth Research

Research Log

I will focus on attempts by china to accommodate the high population rates with projects such as building new cities to help counteract their  problems.

China Population 2014

China, officially the People’s Republic of China, is comfortably the largest country in the world today. In January 2013, the Chinese Government released data confirming that the population of China was an impressive 1,354,040,000, although this does not include Taiwan,Hong Kong and Macau. As of September 2013, that number had grown even further to 1,362,391,579. The current 2014 estimate is 1,393,783,836.

India, the next largest country, has 120 million fewer people, for a population of 1,272,904,150. The United States, the third largest country in the world, has a much smaller population of 323 million. Estimates show that India will pass China as the most populous nation in the world by 2025.

China Population 2014

Unfortunately, there isn’t a really simple answer to the question of how many people live in China. That’s because it is a country of several different parts, not all of which is governed by Beijing.

To understand China’s population and demographics, it helps to understand its government a bit. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is governed by the Communist Party with its seat of government in Beijing, which exercises jurisdiction over 5 autonomous regions, 22 provinces, 4 direct-controlled municipalities and 2 primarily self-governing special administrative regions (Macau and Hong Kong). The PRC also claims Taiwan, which is controlled by a separate political entity called the Republic of China (ROC) as its 23rd province. This makes population figures a bit confusing.

The figure quoted at the top of this article, for example, doesn’t include the island of Taiwan, which the PRC claims as a part of China. Nor does it include the former British and Portugese colonies of Hong Kong and Macau, which are governed as special administrative regions.

Largest Cities in China

Almost half of all Chinese live in urban areas today, and the number is only expected to grow in the coming decades. According to some predictions, it’s likely that almost 70% of Chinese will live in urban areas by 2035. Most of them, as you can see from the map, are concentrated in the east of China, often in coastal cities.

So, it’s not surprising that there are a staggering 90 cities in China (defined as an urban area) with a population of more than 1 million people.

While this would typically be followed with a list of cities in the country with a population over 1 million, that’s a bit excessive in the case of China. You can visit the full list by clicking on the link above, but here’s a quick list of the five largest Chinese cities with their last confirmed populations:

  • Shanghai, a municipality (2012 pop 23.7 million)
  • Beijing, a municipality (2012 pop 20.7 million)
  • Tianjin, a municipality (2010 pop 12.9 million)
  • Guangzhou, a sub-provincial capital (2013 pop 14 million)
  • Shenzhen, a sub-provincial city and previous special economic zone city (2010 pop 10.4 million)

China Population Density

As a whole, China has a population density of 139.6 people per square kilometer, or 363.3 people per square mile. This ranks 81st, despite the country itself being one of the largest in terms of size and the largest in terms of population.

The density figures change dramatically when you look at the largest urban areas, however. Shanghai, the largest city in the country and the world, has a population density of 3,700 people per square kilometer, or 9,700 people per square mile.

Surprisingly, none of China’s cities make the list of the top 30 most densely populated cities in the world, most of which are in India, the PhilippinesFrance and other countries. Macau, however, is the 36th most densely populated city with a density of 18,568 people per square kilometer (48,092 per square mile). Macau tops the list of sovereign states and dependent territories in terms of population density. Despite this tightly packed area, it still has the second highest life expectancy in the world and remains one of the few areas in Asia to receive a “very high Human Development Index” ranking.

China Demographics

Today, China is considered a middle-income nation by Western standards, and its rapid growth over the decades has pulled hundreds of millions of its citizens out of poverty. About 10% of the population in the country lives on $1 USD a day, compared to 64% just 35 years ago.

Although 56 different ethnic groups are officially recognized in China, 91.51% of Chinese are Han Chinese. Only one other group – Zhuang – has a larger than 1% share of the population. Other ethnic groups are growing at a higher rate than Han Chinese but, because of the massive dominance of Han Chinese, this is not expected to dramatically alter China’s ethnic composition.

China is officially an atheist state, and doesn’t survey its people on their religion. So, as you can imagine, no accurate figures are available. China’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, although any religious organization without official approval faces state persecution. A 2007 survey in the country found that about 31% of its population over 16 consider themselves religious.

Chinese culture and civilization has been influenced by many religious movements over the past 1,000 years, and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism are considered the country’s “Three Religions” based on their cultural and historical impact. China has also seen an interesting syncing of these three religions in the form of a folk religion that is common throughout the country.

About 2% of the population is Islamic, with a Christian population between 3.2% and 5%. Buddhism is practiced by 10 to 18% of Chinese residents while over 30% practice local folk religions.

China’s Growth Problems

The size of its population has, for a long time, been a hot political issue in China. After rapid population growth in the middle of the 20th century, the Chinese Government sought to limit population growth by introducting the famous ‘one child policy.’

The scheme, which rewards couples that agree to have just one child with cash bonuses and better access to housing, has proved so successful that the birth rate of 1.4 children per woman has fallen below the replenishment rate of 2.1 children per woman that is needed to maintain the level of population. As a result, experts are now concerned that China’s low birth rate, combined with its aging population, will damage it’s future economic development.

Their one child policy has met with a great deal of resistance however, particularly in rural areas and due to the traditional desire for male children. Families who breach this policy tend to lie on census polls, so the true population of China may be a bit skewed. This means that Chinese population statistics have become less reliable since the policy began in the 1970’s.

Much of China’s economic growth has been attributed to its abundant and cheap workforce, combined with its low social costs. But, with the number of young Chinese falling and the number of elderly Chinese increasing, it is not certain whether China’s economy can continue to grow at the same rapid rate, and the Government is facing increasing calls to abandon its one child policy.

China also has an abnormal ratio of male to female births. Whereas in most countries more girls are born the boys, in China, the reverse is true. Many suspect that this is because of a preference for boys among Chinese families. Whatever the reason, though, it is likely that this will impact on China’s aging population as women continue to be seen as the primary caregivers within Chinese society.

China Population Projections

China’s population projections are very interesting, given that it is the most populous country in the world. According to current projections, China’s population will finally peak in 2030 with a shrinking labor force and an over-65 population of 240 million. Only Japan has aged faster than China.

China has another very serious demographic problem due to sex-selective abortion and its one-child policy, resulting in a ratio of 120 boys for every 100 girls. It’s estimated that the percentage of men in their late 30’s who have never married will quintuple by 2030, and this large number of unmarriageable young men cannot help the country.

By 2028, both India and China are estimated to have 1.45 billion residents each, but India will start to take 1st place with a growth continuing until 2050, while China’s population is expected to decline after 2030.


This article was really handy as it gave me the statitics



China’s Most Famous Ghost City Got Even Worse In The Last 4 Years

MAMTA BADKAR, JUN.8, 2014, 1:22pm

ghost mallChina’s ghost cities aren’t going away. Even as Beijing wants local governments to move away from GDP targeting and is more focused on developing social housing, wasteful construction still plagues China.A report from CLSA’s Nicole Wong, cited by The Wall Street Journal, found that the problem lies in the excess supply in China’s third-tier cities. Vacancy rates for homes constructed in the past five years stand at 15% but are projected to rise over 20% in 2016-17, according to Wong.Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for Marketplace/American Public Media, recently ran a story titled “China’s economic boom leaves a trail of ghost cities.” We reached out to Schmitz to get an update on Kangbashi and Yujiapu.Schmitz points out that one of the key differences between visiting Ordos now and back in October 2010 was people’s attitudes. Back in 2010, residents of Kangbashi (new city of Ordos) were defensive when the place was dubbed a ghost city, but now many had come to accept it.Schmitz said that many people had abandoned these ghost cities and moved back home. He also points out what China bulls like Stephen Roach have got wrong when they argue that these cities tie into China’s urbanization plan.Here is an excerpt from our email interview with Schmitz:

Business Insider: How has Ordos changed now from when it first started making headlines a few years ago?

Rob Schmitz: I first visited Ordos in October 2010, the same year many other Western journalists had reported on the city. When I returned this year, there were a lot of interesting differences. Back in 2010, the few people who lived there seemed defensive about the Western media labeling the place a ghost city. This time, everyone I spoke to had come to an acceptance that Kangbashi (the proposed new city of Ordos) was most likely going to remain mostly vacant, and many seemed OK with that.  I spoke to one of the largest developers while I was there and he told me that Kangbashi had a population density similar more to a city in Canada or the U.S. than of a city in China, and he thought this was a draw for the city. But my conversations with folks didn’t confirm this. I’ve never seen a city of similar physical size in Canada nor in the U.S. as empty as Kangbashi is today, and most of the people I spoke to during my latest visit didn’t seem very happy to be living in a place where most of the buildings were empty.

I met dozens of migrant workers who were renting vacant office spaces as apartments for as low as $65 a month.

Another big difference between this time and last was that the Ordos government has moved its headquarters to Kangbashi, so there are more people there during the day around the city’s civic center. That said, the government of Ordos has actually increased the size of the city since 2010 by building more skyscrapers and infrastructure including a park with a large lake, three sports stadiums, and a skyscraper office park on the banks of the lake which are under construction.

I walked through a development of more than a dozen 20-story high-rises built adjacent to this office park, and there were no signs of life. The same developer I mentioned above also expressed concern over the fate of three gigantic sports stadiums built specifically for China’s ‘Ethnic Minority Traditional Sports Games’ of 2015 outside of Kangbashi. It was surprising that after being admonished by China’s own state-run press, Ordos’ government has continued to build at the same rate as it had done before.

kangbashiThe last difference from last time is that real estate prices in Kangbashi have plummeted since my visit in 2010, and I met dozens of migrant workers who were renting vacant office spaces as apartments for as low as $65 a month. These spaces weren’t built to house people, but one office building I visited was full of migrant workers at night, living in windowless office spaces and using an office bathroom down the hall to bathe.

I also visited a government office in charge of mediating disputes between shadow bankers and those who couldn’t afford to repay their loans. This is a very big problem in Ordos, as most businesses there would never qualify for a loan from a state bank, and now that the local economy is doing so poorly, many businesses have gone bankrupt. The office was in charge of repossessing whatever assets they could get from those who owed money. Their storage room was full of refrigerators, flat-screen TVs, and shelves full of dozens of bottles of high-priced Baijiu (Rice Wine) which they had seized.

BI: Do the people that you meet in these ghost cities have any plans of returning to their hometowns or are they optimistic?

RS: Many have already returned home. Those who are left are looking to make a little money and then leave when the economy finally fizzles out for good. Keep in mind that nearly twenty miles away from Kangbashi (the largely empty city) is Dongsheng, which is known as the old city, and actually has a functioning economy and population, so many people are watching this unfold from there.

Yujiapu china ghost cityBI: Some, like Stephen Roach, have argued that these ghost cities can be explained away as part of China’s urbanization plan. In your experience, does this add up? 

RS: Perhaps some of them can, but for the most part, I don’t agree with this statement. While it is true that some cities are filling up – the outskirts of Zhengzhou, which the TV program “60 Minutes” profiled a couple of years ago as a ghost town is a good example of a city that has defied early criticisms – other cities like Ordos do not fit neatly into China’s urbanization plan.

Roach uses the Pudong district of Shanghai as an example of a place that was built, stood empty for a while, and then filled up, the message being other empty cities like Ordos just need time. It’s important to remember that 1. Pudong was built in the 1990s, before China had even entered the WTO and was on the cusp of more than a decade of double-digit GDP growth. China’s economy today is very different. It’s slowing down and China’s economic planners are taking the first steps to rebalance the economy from one built on investment-led growth to one built on consumer growth. That’s not an easy transition to make, especially for an economy of this size, and it’s going to require years of slower economic growth. 2. Pudong is in Shanghai, which is strategically located and is home to one of the world’s largest ports. Ordos is in the middle of the desert and is running out of groundwater.

If all of these ghost cities and ghost suburbs were part of a master plan hatched in Beijing by the central government, I’d imagine we’d see more affordable housing, as that’s what is needed in China. Instead, most of the housing that’s been built in these empty districts are luxury condos and villas. I have a hard time believing people will eventually move into these empty complexes in the next five years, especially in the scenario of a cooling economy. The other thing to keep in mind is that many of this new housing isn’t built well, and it’s hard to imagine them retaining their value over the time it may take for China’s economy to return to its glory days. I think another danger is that once housing prices begin to plummet – which we are already seeing initial signs of in second tier cities in China – it’ll devastate the financial stability of cities like Ordos.

I think it’s important to remember, too, that the ghost city phenomenon in China is partially due to how local governments are forced to finance themselves. Local governments in China are in a perpetual cash squeeze because they have to hand over a bulk of their tax revenue to the central government and because the central government often orders localities to build all sorts of infrastructure projects but Beijing often neglects to help with funding. Because the Party owns all of the land in China, local governments solve their funding problems by seizing land from their poorest residents, giving them a paltry sum in return, and then they sell the land to developers, essentially flipping real estate on a massive scale. Of course this has the added benefit of raising GDP figures, increasing the chance that local leaders will be promoted within the Party.


BI: Do you see more Chinese ghost cities propping up? Is it possible that some ghost cities are worse than others?

It was a Chinese version of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’ played with a Chinese erhu.

RS: I think each ghost city/ghost suburb should be treated differently – each of them has its own unique background and circumstances. Some of them will survive – we’ve already seen that happen in places like Zhengzhou and even in some of the exurbs of Shanghai that have filled out – but many won’t. I was talking with Arthur Kroeber at GK Dragonomics a couple of months ago, in my mind one of the best experts on China’s economy, and he was telling me about the city of Guiyang and how the province it belongs to, Guizhou, has an 80% debt-to-GDP ratio, which is incredibly dangerous. Arthur’s usually pretty bullish on China’s prospects, but he threw his optimism out the window when talking about the empty suburbs of that city, where hundreds of thousands of apartments sit, empty, while the largely mountainous province continues to plod along as one of China’s poorest. The FT’s (moving to The Economist soon) Simon Rabinovitch did a great story about all of Guiyang’s empty housing, and what’s happened there looks pretty scary.

I think whether we see more ghost cities popping up depends on whether the central government is serious about promises to overhaul the GDP-based local official evaluation system and the way that local governments finance themselves.

rob schmitz

BI: What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had in China’s ghost cities?

RS: My first morning in Kangbashi, I woke up and walked through the empty hotel lobby to take a look outside onto the public square. There wasn’t a soul in sight, and the first birds of spring were singing outside. The only other sound was Muzak pumping through the speakers from the hotel. As I looked around for any signs of life, I suddenly recognized the song. It was a Chinese version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” played with a Chinese erhu.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/chinas-ghost-cities-in-2014-2014-6#ixzz3DeuLSVPs

This web article was helpful to me as it gave me an insight into abandoned cities in China which helped me write about the situations especially the City of Ordos section which was my main focus in the report i create.  It gives me a real insight into how and why these cities are being abandoned which doesn’t correlate to the population statistics in the country of China.


New city of Chenggong, Yunnan

Apartment blocks in Chenggong, Yunnan, China (image: Matteo Damiani http://www.china-underground.com)

“In Chenggong, there are more than 100,000 new apartments with no occupants,” according to the World Bank’s Holly Krambeck.

China’s ghost towns and phantom malls

A view of abandoned buildings at the Wonderland theme park outside Beijing (image by Trey Ratcliff, http://www.stuckincustoms.com) Weeds cover a deserted theme park north of Beijing

As growth slows, China’s huge investment in infrastructure is looking ever harder to sustain, leaving a string of ambitious projects – towns, shopping malls and even a theme park – empty and forlorn.

“We have spoken a lot about these ghost towns in Ireland and Spain recently [but China] is Ireland and Spain on steroids,” says Kevin Doran, a senior investment fund manager at Brown Shipley in the UK.

Investment in infrastructure accounts for much of China’s GDP – the country is said to have built the equivalent of Rome every two months in the past decade. And with such a large pool of labour, it is harder to put the brakes on when growth slows and supply outstrips demand.

“You have got seven to eight million people entering the workforce in China every single year, so you have to give them something to do in order to retain the legitimacy of the government,” says Doran.

“Maybe 10 or 15 years ago they were doing things that made sense – roads, rail, power stations etc – but they have now got to the point where it’s investment for investment’s sake.”

So which are the most striking of these white elephants?

New city of Chenggong, Yunnan

Apartment blocks in Chenggong, Yunnan, China (image: Matteo Damiani http://www.china-underground.com)

“In Chenggong, there are more than 100,000 new apartments with no occupants,” according to the World Bank’s Holly Krambeck.

“Start Quote

It looks to outsiders as though the great Chinese building boom is over, the real estate extravaganza that shook the world.”

BBC’s Peter Day, in Ordos

Designed as an overspill point for nearby Kunming, a city of nearly six-and-a-half million, Chenggong began to take shape in 2003.

High-rise apartment blocks have mushroomed but today it is still largely deserted after failed attempts by the authorities to attract new residents.

Matteo Damiani, an Italian journalist who worked for seven years in Kunming, has visited Chenggong several times, photographing empty tower blocks that loom over gigantic plazas, peopled only by enormous works of art.

He found a small community of students, workers and security guards but nobody else.

“The suburbs and even the city centre are empty,” he says. “You can find a big stadium, shopping malls and hundreds of buildings finished but abandoned.”

There is even an area for luxury villas that is totally abandoned, he adds.

It is said to be one of the biggest ghost cities in Asia.

New South China Mall, Dongguang, Guangdong

Empty buildings inside the New South China Mall, Dongguang, China (image by Mathilde Teuben)

The distinction of being the world’s biggest ghost mall, or emptiest shopping centre, may belong to this vast complex on the outskirts of Dongguang, a city of 10 million.

You may think the mall would be booming, with a population of that size, but the vast majority of its 1,500 stores have been empty since it was finished in 2005.

It has been hurt by poor transport infrastructure. As one blogger puts it, “unfortunately it was built in the middle of nowhere”.

When Australian broadcaster SBS visited, they found a solitary toyshop owner who waits days at a time to sell a toy.

It is not as though the developers did not try. They threw in a canal, windmills and replicas of the Campanile from St Mark’s Square in Venice and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The mall’s website says it is “bound to be a miracle of commercial history”.

“It’s a building where you can see that there was some activity earlier – though very little – but it’s like a ghost town,” writes Netherlands-based blogger Mathilde Teuben, who visited two years ago.

“The very few shops that are there are deserted of customers. It was also funny to see some of the promotional posters for the mall which mostly depicted happy Caucasian children.”

Wonderland Amusement Park, Nankou Town, Changping

A view of abandoned buildings at the Wonderland theme park outside Beijing, 12 December 2011

The Disneyesque castle and medieval ramparts of this theme park north of Beijing, conceived nearly 20 years ago, lie abandoned. Local farmers grow crops among the empty buildings.

In the mid-1990s, developers had promised to build the largest amusement park in Asia, but the project got mothballed over a land rights dispute.

The site does in fact attract visitors, according to locals quoted by Chinese media, but hardly the sort the developers had in mind – they are drawing students, photographers and artists from Beijing, apparently, in search of a “ruin culture”.

Thames Town, Shanghai

Chinese newlyweds pose for wedding photographs in Thames Town, Songjiang, China, 19 November 2010

Photographers who visit this imitation English town generally come not to capture decay but newlyweds, posing in front of mock-Tudor buildings and red phone boxes.

The Shanghai suburb boasts a market square, a castle, a neo-gothic church, cobbled streets, a pub, a chip shop, Georgian-style houses and statues of well-known English figures, such as Winston Churchill, James Bond and Harry Potter.

As a backdrop, Thames Town is a hit with the wedding industry, but that is about it.

“The city is a virtual ghost town, with empty shops and unused roads,” according to an article in Business Insider.

Yet perhaps not all is lost. Apartments have reportedly been sold, to buyers who want them as investments and second homes.

The proof of the developers’ pudding may lie in news that the construction of another mock English town is being planned near Beijing.

“Four miles of polluted rivers running through 1,000 acres of blighted semi-rural land will be restored and landscaped into scenic standards becoming of the English countryside,” a Chinese official told the Daily Telegraph.

New business district, Yujiapu, Tianjin

Manhattan skyline, New York, 19 August 2011

Perhaps you can copy a small English town, but how about Manhattan (above)?

If Chinese developers have their way, the name Yujiapu will be synonymous with international finance a decade from now.

They say they are laying the foundations of the world’s biggest financial zone in the muck of the northern port city of Tianjin.

However, the Reuters news agency suggests that they had to scale back their ambition recently to achieving something short of “the next Shanghai”.

Tianjin now styles itself as China’s home of private equity, offering firms generous tax breaks to set up there.

Meanwhile, the city looks set for a glut of prime office space.

“Tianjin… will soon have more prime office space than will be filled in a quarter-century at the current absorption rate,” says business magazine Forbes.


This BBC article also goes into depth about the settlements set up in China which have failed to materialise. This helps me again with information about the abandoned cities of Japan which i mention in my piece to give the readers more of an idea how many abandoned settlements there are in China and why that with the high population figures of the country these settlements are not serving their purpose.

This video gave me information about the abandoned city of Ordos in video form. The video was very factual and gave me a good idea of the situation in the city.


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