In 1982, with the help of the United Fund for Population Activities, China carried out the third population census in its recent history. Since the data of the second census (1964) had never been disclosed by the authorities, it was finally possible to get out of the conjectural estimates that were the only ones available from the mid-1950s. With 1,008,175,000 residents China, in 1982, was the most populous country on the planet, constituting 22% of the entire human race. Also including the populations of Taiwan, Macao and Hong Kong, the figure rose to 1,031,882,511 residents. Furthermore, the publication of the results of the 1964 census allowed us to have a clear picture of the demographic evolution. In the period 1964-82 the population growth was 45.1%, with a rate of average annual increase of 2.5%. China has launched four campaigns for the reduction of births. The first two (1950 and 1960) were interrupted by the emergence first of the politics of the Great Leap (1958) and then of the Cultural Revolution (1966); the third (1970) was more successful, reducing the annual rate of increase from 2.8% in 1964 to 2.1% in 1973.
Significant results were also recorded following the last campaign announced in 1978 in People’s Congress. Its aims were to consider birth control a goal of the national economy, to bring the growth rate to zero in 2000 and to achieve this goal with family planning (one child per couple) and with various forms of disincentives. of procreation. We are therefore faced with a notable innovation of the Chinese cultural tradition but also of the socialist ideology, in the name of which in the past China had denounced the attempts of the West to negatively interfere with the development of poor countries by amplifying the risks of an uncontrolled increase in births (Bucharest Population Conference, 1974). The results, albeit positive, have shown the enormous difficulties to be faced, especially in rural areas, where the implementation of government policy is very complex, for both historical-cultural and economic reasons. The continuous and rapid increase in the population has a negative impact on the fertility rate, which in the countryside is still very high, and the reduction in the mortality rate, which obviously must be ascribed to the successes of Chinese domestic politics with the great improvements in the health sector.
According to Ejiaxing, the population estimated in 1990 amounted to 1,110,000,000 residents, with an increase of 10.1% compared to 1982, higher than that expected to be able to reach zero growth in 2000. The territorial breakdown of demographic data allows us to grasp the complexity of the population phenomenon in China. Growth rates show strong contrasts from region to region. In general, the major municipalities (Shanghai, Peking [Beijing]), the economically more developed provinces (Liaoning, Hubei) and those with serious environmental problems, such as Shaanxi / Shanxi, the lands of loess appear below the national average . The border regions and the innermost regions, although characterized by low densities, recorded higher than average increases, due both to the positive natural balance and to immigration in support of economic development and military defense. Thus the populations of Xinjiang and Qinghai between 1964 and 1982 increased respectively by 79.9% and 81.6%. Population density also shows significant variations. Compared to the average of 107 residents per km 2 of the entire country, at the 1982 census there were 2 residents per km 2 in Tibet and over 600 in Jiangsu. Overall, the western provinces of Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang, which represent 55% of the national territory, had a population equal to 6% of the total. More than 40% of the Chinese, on the other hand, were concentrated in an area that constitutes only 10% of the whole of China, particularly in the plains of the Northeast and in the lower Chang Jang valley. In terms of ethnic composition, the Han population remained largely dominant (93.3%), but the census showed its rate of growth less sustained (43.8%) than that of the 55 minority groups (68.4%).
A historical contrast is in China that between the countryside and the city. The rural population (in 1982) constituted 79.2% of the total, but this numerical superiority is contrasted by a much more modest standard of living than that of the citizens. The reduction of this imbalance was one of the objectives pursued with greater commitment by the Chinese leaders, who at the same time tried to avoid the formation of huge urban agglomerations, as has happened in most of the underdeveloped or developing countries. From 1959 onwards, the control over the movements towards the cities caused a slowdown in the growth of the urban population which had been very strong up to that date. Especially during the Cultural Revolution, the triumph of the ideology of disurbanization led to excesses, such as organization of a real forced urban exodus, of questionable economic utility. Since the early seventies there has been an inversion of trend, linked above all, after 1978, to the affirmation of a new model of urban development, which while maintaining the control over emigration to the metropolises, favors, rationalizing it, that towards medium and small cities that are functionally integrated into the new economic policy, of which they are considered an essential moment.
Comparing the data of the censuses of 1964 and 1982, it is observed that the urban population has grown by 79 million units (2% annual increase) constituting 20.8% of the total. But the rates of growth are much greater since 1975, and become very rapid since 1982. According to data from the National Statistical Office, the population of the cities in 1985 would have reached 382 million, an increase compared to 1982 of about 80%. Although this striking fact is the result of the change in the criteria on the basis of which a center is defined as urban (1984), there is no doubt that China is heading towards an unprecedented development of cities, which constitutes one of the great challenges facing the country. he can no longer escape. Indeed, if it is true that the urban policy of the previous decades had safeguarded China.
Except for Shanghai and Beijing, with non-agricultural populations of 6,300,000 and 5,600,000, only five other cities exceeded two million: Tianjin, Shenyang, Wuhan, Canton and Chongqing. Considering the demographic dimension in one with the level of development, the most modernized cities are located in a triangle with Shenyang, Beijing and Qingdao in the Northeast at the top, and in the lower Chang Jang area between Wuhan and Shanghai. On the other hand, the urbanization rates reveal a situation not far from that of the early 1950s. Only 6 provinces reached rates close to 40%: those on which the three large municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin) insist and which correspond to the areas already developed starting from the 19th century, the east coast from Shanghai to Tianjin and the ancient Manchuria.
Faced with this situation, the new leadership it no longer seems willing to oppose the inevitability of certain rules of the development process, even if this involves some compromise on an ideological level. In fact, although it is true that from 1949 onwards an attempt has been made to distribute non-agricultural activities in a balanced way, thus bringing industry to rural areas with the establishment of pioneer centers, the economic results have proved to be modest. The development has also continued to manifest itself in those centers and in those areas where the productive and commercial tradition was rooted, both for historical and environmental reasons. The new policy focused on the establishment of Special Economic Zones (see below) has thus led to the privilege and strengthening of about twenty centers which are mostly coastal or ports opened in 1984 to international trade, which gravitate to areas of ancient development. In particular, Shenzen near Hong Kong, and Zhuhai, which borders Macao, should be noted. In fact, in 1984, with a population equal to 0.1% of the national total, they used approximately 36% of the 2,000 million dollars of foreign capital available in China. If the southern coasts seemed favored for the presence of Singapore, from which most of the foreign capital comes, and for the prospects offered by the recent oil exploration in the South China Sea, in the northern ones the port of Lianyungang, very close to Italy, has assumed great importance. hinterland of northern China, on which various development projects are centered.