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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
China's population growth 'slowing'
Rural Chinese family
China says it's one-child policy is working
China has announced that its first nationwide census in a decade puts the Chinese population at 1,260,000,000, including people living on the island of Taiwan.

The figure means that the population has grown by 132.2 million since 1990, an increase of 11.7%, said Zhu Zhixin, Director-General of the National Bureau of Statistics.

Annual growth was 1.07% - down 0.4% from the rate in the 1980s.

Chinese migrant workers
Many Chinese are reluctant to co-operate with the census takers

But some analysts believe the latest figures underestimate the population growth.

Mr Zhu said the census showed that China's compulsory birth-control policies were effective in holding down population growth.

Since the late 1970s China has restricted urban couples and many rural families to just one child to reduce the strain on food production and other resources.

But BBC Beijing correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says that serious questions remain over the accuracy of the figures.

Hidden children

Counting China's massive population is extremely difficult, made only more so by its one child policy, as tens of millions of people with extra children are thought to have hidden them from the census takers for fear of being punished.

The total figure was substantially lower than independent estimates, which put the number of Chinese as high as 1.5 billion.

The census results also confirm fears that China's gender imbalance is growing at an alarming rate.

There are now 117 boys born in China for every 100 girls - way above the international norm of 106 boys for every 100 girls.

Female foetuses aborted

China's age-old preference for boys is being exacerbated, both by the one child policy and by modern technology, which can detect the sex of a child early in pregnancy.

Such technology has led to a massive growth in the abortion of female foetuses.

The census found 6.8 million people in Hong Kong and 440,000 people in Macau, according to Mr Zhu.

The report also said the figure included Taiwan, which Beijing does not control, but claims as part of its territory.

The self-governing island was found to have a population of 22.3 million - although Chinese officials did not comment on how the Taiwanese population figures were obtained.

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's youth: Shaping the future
25 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China steps up 'one child' policy
12 Oct 99 | World population
Population: Why we should worry
31 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
China begins massive census
13 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Corruption hits China census
26 Mar 01 | South Asia
Census confirms one billion Indians
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