Saturday, 21 February 2009

China, A Case Study in Population

This country has 1.3 billion people as of 2008. Its rate of increase is 44, 100 new babies a day and 17 million people a year making it the most populated nation on the planet. The current population is greater than the whole World 150 years ago.

It is the third largest country in the World (after Russia and Canada) but the biggest in East Asia and is 3.7 million square miles long, yet ninety per cent of the people live in 16% of the land.

Most Chinese people live in the big cities of the East and the South namely Shanghai and Nanking or even the capital, Beijing. Shanghai, China’s most populated city, was home to 8.76 million people in the 1990s while Beijing had 6.56 million in the same period.

As early as 800 BCE (Before the Common Era) China had 13.7 million people, a modest figure today, but an enormous number then, especially since there were only 200 million people in the World overall at the time. China later reached 100 million by the 13th Century.

Prosperity, it is said, brought a rapid rise in the birth rate in the last few centuries. In 1650 the population stood at 125 million, by 1750 it was 225 million and 410 million by 1850.

Nevertheless however rich and industrious China may have grown, any increase in national output did nothing for the country’s peasantry and labourers who made up the majority.

Between 1796-1804 however, living standards actually fell as a result of huge population increases and resulted in a cultural decline forcing the country to think about the hard lives of the poor for the first time.

By the end of the 1800s, foreign nations including England, Portugal, France, Russia, Japan and the United States of America began interfering in China and forcing the government to give most of the national income and profits to them instead of Chinese people. The result was another baby boom.

In 1949, China became the first nation in Asia to embrace Communism and since the new leader, Mao Zedong, wished to have greater support and manpower for his State, the government also promoted an increase in population.

Thirty years later in 1979, the government introduced regulations to force families to have one child only. China then had 950 million people. By 1990, the figure passed over 1 billion.

India meanwhile, the only other country to have over a billion people, is set to overtake China’s population by 2051 with 1, 591 million Indians compared to 1, 555 million Chinese people.

In comparison, China is richer than India, has a more stable economy and higher living standards. India regularly suffers from famine, hunger, diseases and poverty while China does not.

In addition, China has the highest profit of annual economic growth (15% per year) than any other country in the World including the United States. India’s economic growth rate has never been higher than 10% and it normally stays at 8%.

Most of Europe and the United States annual profit increase in comparison is also less than 10% per year. More and more Americans and other people worldwide have started to invest and buy shares in China because of its amazing economic output since the 1990s.

In 2005, it was announced China was able to feed its entire population and now sends money across the World, while India still needs help from other countries to support its poor people.

China has also expanded in other areas for several years now. In 1994, China had the most primary schools in the World with about 857, 000 in total and approximately 84% of its adults are literate, while perhaps fittingly, India has the largest number of secondary schools. In 1995, there were 231, 000 in total.

In medicine, China is one of only three countries to have over a million doctors (the others being the United States and Russia). In 1994 it had 1.94 million doctors, 1.16 million nurses, 103, 472 clinics and 63, 100 hospitals (then the largest number in the World).

The average life expectancy is 68 years for men and 71 years for women (still lower than 77 years for both men and women in neighbouring Japan), which is one of the best and highest in the Developing World.

China and India’s only real horror for the future is what to do when the population of their countries finally reaches 2 billion by or before the early 21st Century. Most of the people may no longer be peasants or poor labourers by then, but will still be human beings with needs and nourishment nonetheless.

China is likely to be able to accommodate most of its people in the 84% of its territory where few or no people live and still have healthy living standards, but India may struggle.

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