China's population falls for first time in decades, hampering its economic rise

HONG KONG — China said Tuesday that its population declined last year for the first time in six decades, a historic shift with profound implications for the world’s

second-largest economy. Officials from the National Bureau of Statistics said mainland China had 1.41175 billion people at the end of 2022, compared with 1.41260 billion a

year earlier, a decrease of 850,000. There were a total of 9.56 million births — a record low birth rate of 6.77 per thousand — and 10.41 million deaths.  The announcement

was part of a larger release of economic data for 2022, a year when President Xi Jinping’s strict “zero-Covid” policies weighed heavily on growth. Officials reported a 3% increase

in gross domestic product, beating expectations but still one of the weakest figures in decades. The economy is expected to improve in 2023 as China emerges from pandemic

isolation, Kang Yi, director of the National Bureau of Statistics, said at a news briefing in Beijing. The number of births in China has been declining for about a decade,

undermining the ruling Communist Party’s consumption-driven growth model and raising questions about whether China can overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy. The United

Nations has said India will surpass China as the world’s most populous nation later this year. China’s 9.56 million births are a decrease of almost 10% from 2021, when about

10.6 million babies were born. The death rate of 7.37 per 1,000 people was up from 7.18 in 2021, when China recorded 10.14 million deaths.