Cities Seek to Increase Populations as China’s Demographic Crisis Intensifies

Easing urban residency limits and encouraging more births are among the ways to increase the local population.Amid China’s worsening demographic crisis, authorities in many cities are endeavoring to boost their populations by encouraging more births, easing urban household registrations, and offering other incentives for migrants to settle.On May 13, the authority of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province, announced measures to favor the settlement of migrants, including abolishing the quota restriction and extending the scope of relatives who can settle in the city from immediate family members to close relatives.Other metropolises, such as Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, Suzhou, a city of historical and cultural significance, Ningbo, a prominent port city in Zhejiang Province, and Qingdao, a famous seashore city in Shandong Province, have also introduced various policies to relax the restriction on migrant registering as local householders.These initiatives are in response to the looming demographic crisis affecting the local economy and fiscal revenues, signaling a loosening of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) draconian “Hukou,” or household registration system.The Chinese residency system has long been criticized as discriminatory against residents holding agricultural (rural) Hukou. It confined them to the countryside and denied them access to the better benefits enjoyed by residents holding non-agricultural (urban) Hukou.The population decline has also forced the communist regime to modify its strategy on population and childbearing. In August 2021, the CCP began to implement a “three-child birth policy,” a family planning policy that, from 1979, limited births to only one child, and by 2015, allowed two children.Related StoriesMultiple Chinese media reported that provinces and cities across the country have made various efforts to encourage locals to have more children.Population CrisisAccording to official population figures for 2023 released in April, more than 85 percent of China’s provinces have a negative natural growth rate. Northeastern provinces such as Liaoning and Jilin are seeing the steepest population drops. No official figures were released for Heilongjiang Province.The three northeastern provinces also experienced negative growth in 2022. CCP’s statistical authority said in May 2021 that the Northeast region’s population had decreased by 11.01 million, or more than 10 percent, compared with a decade ago.Besides the large number of deaths, the birth rate continues to hit record lows, and population aging is also a pressing problem. According to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, by the end of 2022, there were 280 million elders over 60, accounting for 19.8 percent of the total population.Cemetery employees attend an eco-friendly collective funeral ceremonial burial during Qingming Festival in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on April 3, 2021. (Getty Images)Household Registration SystemIn 1950, the second year of its usurpation of power, the CCP began to implement a strict household registration system known as the Hukou system. In 1958, the CCP categorized the population into two main groups: “agricultural Hukou” and “non-agricultural Hukou.” This division grants people with city Hukou more benefits and rights in urban social security, education resources, medical services, and employment opportunities.This right of residence is irrevocable for life and must be “inherited” by future generations, completely restricting the free movement of people. “It violates the constitutional provision that citizens enjoy ‘freedom of movement and residence,’” Mr Zhuge said.However, the Hukou system has been somewhat relaxed due to economic pressure and a declining population.In December 2021, Jilin Province took the lead in proposing a complete liberalization of household registration restrictions in all cities, becoming the first province in the Northeast to have a “zero threshold” for household registration. In June 2023, Heilongjiang Province announced that all cities (towns) would abolish all restrictions on household registration, followed by Liaoning Province.A notice from the Ministry of Public Security said that in 2023, restrictions on settlement in cities with a permanent urban population of less than 3 million were fully lifted.Lai Jianping, a former Beijing lawyer and chairman of the Democratic China Front in Canada, believes that relaxing household registrations cannot effectively stem the ongoing economic downturn and population crisis.In his opinion, policies such as the removal of restrictions on household registration may produce some structural changes, such as a shift in the urban population, with a concentration in the large cities, “it may lead to the hollowing out of small and medium-sized cities,” he told The Epoch Times.“The root caus

Cities Seek to Increase Populations as China’s Demographic Crisis Intensifies

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Easing urban residency limits and encouraging more births are among the ways to increase the local population.

Amid China’s worsening demographic crisis, authorities in many cities are endeavoring to boost their populations by encouraging more births, easing urban household registrations, and offering other incentives for migrants to settle.

On May 13, the authority of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province, announced measures to favor the settlement of migrants, including abolishing the quota restriction and extending the scope of relatives who can settle in the city from immediate family members to close relatives.

Other metropolises, such as Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, Suzhou, a city of historical and cultural significance, Ningbo, a prominent port city in Zhejiang Province, and Qingdao, a famous seashore city in Shandong Province, have also introduced various policies to relax the restriction on migrant registering as local householders.

These initiatives are in response to the looming demographic crisis affecting the local economy and fiscal revenues, signaling a loosening of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) draconian “Hukou,” or household registration system.

The Chinese residency system has long been criticized as discriminatory against residents holding agricultural (rural) Hukou. It confined them to the countryside and denied them access to the better benefits enjoyed by residents holding non-agricultural (urban) Hukou.

The population decline has also forced the communist regime to modify its strategy on population and childbearing. In August 2021, the CCP began to implement a “three-child birth policy,” a family planning policy that, from 1979, limited births to only one child, and by 2015, allowed two children.

Multiple Chinese media reported that provinces and cities across the country have made various efforts to encourage locals to have more children.

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Population Crisis

According to official population figures for 2023 released in April, more than 85 percent of China’s provinces have a negative natural growth rate. Northeastern provinces such as Liaoning and Jilin are seeing the steepest population drops. No official figures were released for Heilongjiang Province.

The three northeastern provinces also experienced negative growth in 2022. CCP’s statistical authority said in May 2021 that the Northeast region’s population had decreased by 11.01 million, or more than 10 percent, compared with a decade ago.

Besides the large number of deaths, the birth rate continues to hit record lows, and population aging is also a pressing problem. According to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, by the end of 2022, there were 280 million elders over 60, accounting for 19.8 percent of the total population.

.

Cemetery employees attend an eco-friendly collective funeral ceremonial burial during Qingming Festival in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on April 3, 2021. (Getty Images)
Cemetery employees attend an eco-friendly collective funeral ceremonial burial during Qingming Festival in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on April 3, 2021. (Getty Images)

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Household Registration System

In 1950, the second year of its usurpation of power, the CCP began to implement a strict household registration system known as the Hukou system. In 1958, the CCP categorized the population into two main groups: “agricultural Hukou” and “non-agricultural Hukou.” This division grants people with city Hukou more benefits and rights in urban social security, education resources, medical services, and employment opportunities.

This right of residence is irrevocable for life and must be “inherited” by future generations, completely restricting the free movement of people. “It violates the constitutional provision that citizens enjoy ‘freedom of movement and residence,’” Mr Zhuge said.

However, the Hukou system has been somewhat relaxed due to economic pressure and a declining population.

In December 2021, Jilin Province took the lead in proposing a complete liberalization of household registration restrictions in all cities, becoming the first province in the Northeast to have a “zero threshold” for household registration. In June 2023, Heilongjiang Province announced that all cities (towns) would abolish all restrictions on household registration, followed by Liaoning Province.

A notice from the Ministry of Public Security said that in 2023, restrictions on settlement in cities with a permanent urban population of less than 3 million were fully lifted.

Lai Jianping, a former Beijing lawyer and chairman of the Democratic China Front in Canada, believes that relaxing household registrations cannot effectively stem the ongoing economic downturn and population crisis.

In his opinion, policies such as the removal of restrictions on household registration may produce some structural changes, such as a shift in the urban population, with a concentration in the large cities, “it may lead to the hollowing out of small and medium-sized cities,” he told The Epoch Times.

“The root cause of China’s rapid economic downturn is the CCP’s politics. Its perverse dictatorship has led to qualitative changes in domestic and foreign affairs. Xi’s administration has frightened foreign businessmen and the private sector, leading to global industrial relocation, a sharp decline in foreign trade and exports, a drop in domestic investment, a shrinking real estate sector, sluggish consumption, and a high unemployment rate, triggering a systemic economic crisis and a deflationary economic situation.”

He said, “In such circumstances, the already excessive urbanization not only makes it impossible to continue moving forward but also produces a reverse flow, with rural migrant workers losing jobs and returning to their hometowns. Cities are plagued by depopulation and an oversupply of real estate.”

“Therefore, no matter what measures the CCP introduces, it is not possible to create too many effects and it is not possible to fundamentally reverse the downward trend of the Chinese economy.” Mr. Lai said.

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