Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 69 ›› Issue (10): 1473-1486.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201410007

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatial pattern and its evolution of Chinese provincial population and empirical study

Yu DENG1(), Shenghe LIU1, Jianming CAI1, Xi LU2()   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • Received:2013-12-05 Revised:2014-08-15 Online:2014-10-20 Published:2014-10-20
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41271174;National Key Technology R&D Program, No.2012BAI32B06


China has been experiencing unprecedented urbanization process. In 2011, China's urban population reached 691 million with an urbanization rate of 51.27%. Urbanization level is expected to increase to 70% in China in 2030, reflecting the projection that nearly 300 million people would migrate from rural areas to urban areas over this period. At the same time, the natural growth rate of China's population is declining due to the combined effect of economic growth, improvement in education quality, and modern social consciousness. As a result, Chinese government has loosened its "one-child policy" gradually by allowing childbearing couples to have a second child if either of them is from a one-child family. An accurate prediction of the future spatial pattern of population and its evolution is critical for a variety of key policy-making processes in China, such as industrial development, ecological conservation, industrial upgrading and transfer, and environmental protection. In this paper, a top-down method was developed to project the spatial distribution of China's future population with considerations of both natural population growth at provincial level and the population migration between provinces from 2010 to 2050. The results suggested that the overall spatial pattern of Chinese population is unlikely to change significantly over the next four decades. Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Jiangsu will remain the top 4 provinces in terms of population density in China, and Xinjiang, Qinghai and Tibet continue to have the lowest density of population. China's population is projected to continue to concentrate in eastern coastal provinces. Population densities of Shanghai, Beijing, Zhejiang will peak in 2030, while that of Guangdong will keep increasing until 2035. Due to the large amount of moving-out labors and gradually declining fertility rates, population densities for Central and Northeast China will decrease from 292 persons per km2 in 2010 to 253 persons per km2 in 2050, exhibiting a downward trend. The majority of the western provinces, including Shaanxi, Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Tibet, Guangxi and Inner Mongolia are likely to remain sparsely populated, with an averaged population density no more than 100 persons per km2.

Key words: China, inter-province, population, migration, spatial pattern