China records its first population decline in decades as births drop

China has announced its first population decline in decades as what has been the world's most populous nation ages and its birth rate plunges. The National Bureau of

Statistics reported Tuesday that the country had 850,000 fewer people at the end of 2022 than the previous year. The tally includes only the population of mainland China, and

excludes Hong Kong, Macao and foreign residents. That left a total of 1.41 billion people, with 9.56 million births against 10.41 million deaths, the bureau said at a news

briefing Tuesday. Men outnumbered women by 722.06 million to 689.69 million, a result of the strict one-child policy that officially ended only in 2016 and a traditional

preference for male offspring to carry on the family name. Since abandoning the policy, China has sought to encourage families to have second or even third children, but

with little success, reflecting attitudes in much of East Asia, where birth rates have fallen precipitously. In China, the expense of raising children in cities is often cited as

a cause. China has long been the world's most populous nation but is expected soon to be overtaken by India, if it has not been already. Estimates put India's population at

more than 1.4 billion and continuing to grow. The last time China is believed to have recorded a population decline was during the Great Leap Forward campaign launched at

the end of the 1950s. Then-leader Mao Zedong's disastrous drive for collective farming and industrialization produced a massive famine that killed tens of millions of people.