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Permanent population trend of megacities signals change

China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-12 08:06


Statistics show that all four first-tier cities in China — Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen — have experienced negative growth in permanent residents last year.

This is the first time Shenzhen has seen its population contract.

The number of migrant workers in Guangdong province, where Guangzhou and Shenzhen are situated, decreased by 692,000 in 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that the trend will be checked this year, as the Pearl River Delta remains the most vibrant economic engine of the country.

The decrease in the population of Beijing and Shanghai is the result of their population control policies that were made and carried out due to their natural resources constraints and their pressing need to address such problems as pollution and traffic congestion.

At the same time, many provincial capitals and some regional center cities have seen their population swell. Last year, 17 of the 24 cities whose GDP is above 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion) saw a positive population growth rate, among which Changsha, Hangzhou, Hefei and Xi'an all had their population increase by more than 100,000.

That means the distribution of China's population is undergoing profound changes, as the population is flowing from the first-tier cities to the second-tier cities, particularly those in the central and western parts of the country, with some inland cities becoming new growth engines. That's also in line with the policy objective of bridging the development gap between the coastal and inland regions. The population flow among cities will become more obvious in the future.

Governments at various levels should understand, adapt to and guide the new normal of population development, and better balance the relationship between population, economy, society, resources and the environment.

They should do more to optimize regional economic layout and accelerate the development of modern human resources with good quality, sufficient quantity, optimized structure and reasonable distribution, so that a positive interaction can be formed between demographic development and economic and social development.

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