Number of people in Beijing, Shanghai down

The two mega cities see first dip in population in four decades, but too early to say if this is a trend

BEIJING • The population of Beijing and Shanghai dipped slightly last year for the first time since 1978 as the two Chinese mega cities seek to move out low-end industries and slow population growth, reported The Global Times newspaper.

The latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed the population of Beijing dropped by 22,000 to 21.7 million last year, a decline of 0.1 per cent.

This came after a 59 per cent surge in Beijing's population between 2000 and 2016, according to the bureau. Shanghai's population dropped by 13,700 to 24.18 million.

The report quoted Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics spokesman Pang Jiangqian as saying multiple factors contributed to the capital's population decline. He cited the decrease in China's working age population and the slowdown in migration from rural areas.

"In recent years, China's annual population growth dropped around 0.5 per cent. The number of people migrating to mega cities has also slowed. Against the backdrop of nationwide urbanisation, the attraction of mega cities is gradually waning," he said at a news conference in Beijing last Friday.

Following a fire that killed 19 people in Beijing in November, the city government launched a sweeping campaign that required tenants of substandard and unsafe housing to move out.

"Given the fact that Beijing and Shanghai have taken measures to evict migrant workers, strengthened its management of apartment leasing and relocated industries, it's not surprising that the population has dropped in the two cities," Dr Li Jianmin, a professor of demography at Nankai University, told The Global Times on Tuesday.

  • 22,000

    The dip in Beijing's population, which was 21.7 million last year.

    13,700

    The fall in Shanghai's population, which was 24.2 million.

But it is still too early to say whether the population trends in these two cities are at a turning point, according to Dr Ding Jinhong, a professor at East China Normal University. According to its latest development scheme, Beijing plans to cap its population at 23 million by 2020, reducing the population in six central districts to 15 per cent below 2014 levels.

Shanghai aims to cap its population at 25 million by 2035.

Chinese officials have sought to slow migration to the country's biggest cities by putting caps on residency permits that give people access to schools, community services and hospitals, and tearing down informal housing often used by workers who move from other regions, reported Bloomberg.

Beijing plans to tear down at least 40 million sq m of illegal structures, roughly the area of 28 London Hyde Parks, and shut 500 manufacturing firms this year, Reuters reported.

The city will "ensure zero increase of such structures" this year and will continue to relocate people out of the city centre, acting mayor Chen Jining said in an annual work report to the city's government yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'Number of people in Beijing, Shanghai down'. Print Edition | Subscribe