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Did China overestimate its births? Leaked data raises questions (Nikkei)

2 October 2022


Nikkei Asia title: Did China overestimate its births? Leaked data raises questions
Nikkei subtitle: Differences between official census, hacked information identified by scholar in U.S.
By: IORI KAWATE, Nikkei staff writer
Date: 25 September 2022

“BEIJING — A trove of data obtained in a massive cybersecurity breach has raised questions as to whether the Chinese government overestimated birth totals in the official census.

The data was stolen by a hacker who claimed to have accessed personal information on 1 billion Chinese citizens kept by the Shanghai police, sending the country’s social media into a frenzy over the news.

Yi Fuxian, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin and an expert on Chinese population trends, combed through data that had been released on 250,000 people as of 2020.

While China claims that births increased in much of the 2010s after restrictions were relaxed, the study indicates this may not be the case.

When comparing age distributions contained in the leaked data with China’s official 2020 census, he found notable discrepancies among minors in the population.

When looking at the leaked data, a trend emerges in the minor population — the younger the age, the fewer people there are. This suggests a continuation of the decline in births.

This is the opposite of what the official census shows. For minors born before 2017 — the younger the age, the more people there are.

In 2013, the Chinese government began to move away from its long-held one-child policy and allowed parents to have two children in many cases. Later in 2016, the two-child policy was applied across the board.

China’s 2020 census shows there were 18.41 million people who were born in 2017. This is 30% more than those born in 2002.

Meanwhile, the leaked data suggests as of 2020 there were nearly 70% fewer people who were born in 2017 compared with those who were born in 2002.

Yi has argued that China’s population started to shrink in 2018. Now the leaked data implies that births have trended downward for the majority of the past 20 years.

“The leaked data suggests the number of births have potentially declined faster than originally estimated,” said Yi.

The analysis based on the leaked data does not necessarily reveal the full picture of China’s population. For one, the 250,000-person sample data represents just 0.02% of the nation’s population. The data also does not account for the legions of children who are not registered to households.”



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