China’s Population at the Crossroads– Learning from the 2020 Census



China’s 2020 Census counted the country’s population at 1.41 billion, 10 million more than the government’s previous estimate. As China’s first digital census, the 2020 census benefited from its digital implementation that linked the census to loads of administrative records and came out with improved internal and external consistencies. The 2020 census revealed that China had been underestimating the speed of fertility decline, population aging and urbanization. China’s population is at the crossroads as it is turning from growth to decline at an accelerated pace. How China balances between supporting a rapidly aging population and preventing its fertility falling further, at the same time maintaining a productive labor force will be key to the country’s future.


Yong Cai is an Associate Professor, and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Sociology, College of Art and Sciences, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2005. Before joining UNC as an Assistant Professor In 2009, Dr. Cai worked as a Research Scientist at the University of Washington (2005-2006), and as Assistant Professor at the University of Utah (2006-2009). His research interests include: Social Demography, Sociology of Health, Chinese Society, Comparative Historical Sociology, and Research Methodology.

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