China's true population might differ from the official census figure of 1.38 billion, but the range of error makes estimates by some foreign media of 800 million people simply impossible, Chinese experts said Tuesday.
Russian media, including Russian news site pikabu.ru reported that China's population was less than the official count of 1.38 billion and might even be less than 800 million based on China's grain output, import and export data.
"The population in China in 1980 was about 1 billion and the birth rate was higher than the death rate during the past three decades. So there is no reason to say China's population is less than 1 billion," Liang Zhongtang, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Liang said that "the actual population may be less than the data from the National Bureau of Statistics due to some minor errors during the census, but China definitely has more than 1 billion people."
China probably has more than 1.3 billion people based on her census knowledge and experience, Ma Li, counselor of the State Council and a former director of the China Population and Development Research Center, told the Global Times.
Regulators usually have to correct values in a census, for example using the enrollment rate of 6-year-old children to correct the birth rate of six years earlier.
"We found the enrollment rate was usually higher than the birth rate six years ago," Ma said. Parents who break China's family planning laws sometimes conceal such information, she explained.
"We also have other ways to ensure the accuracy of the population number including updating the demographic database from the county level. It is groundless for foreign media to say China has less than 800 million people and what would be the purpose of China overstating the population number?"
An accurate census is important, Liang and Ma agreed.
"Demographic data forms the basis for government policies, and for the market and enterprises," Liang said.
The total population of the Chinese mainland was 1.38 billion at the end of 2016, an increase of 8.09 million from 2015, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on January 20 last year.