China's Population Trends, Challenges & Outlook

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

As you might expect, being the world's largest country in terms of population comes with some unique challenges. This lesson shows how China has coped with having more than 1.3 billion citizens.

Facts About China's Population

It's really quite difficult to keep things in perspective when talking about a country with a population as big as China's. The world's largest country by population, China has almost 1.4 billion people. The numbers are so considerable that if the entire population of China walked in pairs in front of you, the line would never end because new Chinese citizens would be born in the amount of time it took for them all to pass you.

As you can imagine, a country with a population as big as China's has faced a multitude of unique challenges. Learning about these challenges is definitely worthwhile to other countries, especially those that are starting to find themselves growing at particularly rapid rates.

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  • 0:06 Fact's About China's…
  • 0:48 Urbanization
  • 2:01 One-Child Policy
  • 3:18 Environmental Impact…
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Urbanization

For many young adults, the thought of moving to the big city, whether it's New York, Los Angeles, or just the state capital, has a great deal of thrill. New people, new opportunities, and the potential for newfound riches entice people to move to cities at growing rates in the Western world. The same can also be said about the youth of China, though it is not only young people. Seemingly, everyone in China wants to move to the city. Why is that?

In short, it's many of the same reasons that draw young people around the world to cities, but on a much larger scale. For decades, the Chinese countryside was poor; now, Chinese cities provide a great deal of economic opportunity. Also, while life in many Chinese villages has barely changed, Chinese cities have become quite exciting places.

However, having so many people leave the countryside for the cities has been a real stress on the Chinese government. Fewer people in the countryside means fewer people to work on harvesting food crops as well as fewer people to take care of the elderly in those regions. Additionally, with such an influx of people to the cities, urban resources have been stretched thin.

One-Child Policy

Such a stretching of resources is something that the Chinese government has been acutely aware of for several years. In 1979, the One-Child Policy was enacted, which served to offer incentives for limiting the total number of children born to just one per couple. By limiting their family to one child, or one set of multiples in the case of twins or triplets, parents could receive discounted health care and child care, as well as preferential treatment for schools. Meanwhile, those that had more children were forced to pay penalties or even face sterilization or abortions.

This policy had a number of unforeseen negative effects, most notably that some families started attempting to have sons instead of daughters. Instances of infanticide, or the killing of newborns based on gender, were not uncommon during this time. Another consequence was known as the Four, Two, One Problem. Chinese society is heavily dependent on younger generations to take care of their elders. However, due to the One-Child Policy, there is only one child to take care of two parents and four grandparents. Even when the policy was relaxed in 2013 and terminated in 2016 to alleviate these issues, many families still chose to only have one child or even no children.

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