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The transformation of a populous country
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14:44, September 21, 2009

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"In essence, population issue is an issue of development," said Li Bin, Minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China (NPFPC). "From a new historical starting point, China's population development will prioritize investment in the comprehensive development of the people and comprehensively address the population issue to promote China's evolution from a populous country to a country rich in human resources."

Promote economic and social development

"People used to compare which family has the most sons, but now they compare which family is leading a more prosperous life," said Li. Since New China was founded, China's population development has undergone a difficult exploration process and got off the 'fast track' of population growth. Chinese people's attitude toward population reproduction has changed accordingly, shifting from "quantity" to "quality".

"As a basic factor of macroeconomics, demography serves as the foundation for a country's fundamental condition," said Li. We must always bear in mind that China is a big country with a huge population, weak economic foundations, insufficient per capita and imbalanced social and economic development. Only through long, hard struggle can we catch with the developed countries.

Given such a context, China initiated reform, opening-up and family planning in the late 1970’s, which helped facilitate the integration of development and population issues, and created two miracles, namely, rapid economic development and effective population control.

Population is effectively under control. As a major developing country with the one fifth of the world's total population, China has reduced its population by nearly 400 million, delaying the arrival of a national population of 1.3 billion and a global population of six billion by four years.

Creating favorable conditions for economic and social development has eased the pressure on resources and the environment, and created a 40-year demographic dividend with a 25 percent contribution rate for economic growth.

Demographics and development conditions have been significantly improved. China's average life expectancy has increased from 35 years in 1949 to the current 73, reaching the level of the medium- and high-income countries. The average education level for Chinese people over15 years old has risen from 4.5 years prior to reform and opening-up to the current 8.5 years, higher than the average of the developing countries. The population in poverty has been reduced from 250 million to around 40 million.

Properly solve the "two overall arrangements"

China's family planning has achieved remarkable results, but is also facing the challenges of new situations and problems. Li Bin said that after entering the 21st century, the development trend of China's population will become much more complicated. In the first half of the century, China will meet three population peaks, including the total population (1.5 billion in 2033), working-aged population (990 million in 2016) and aging population (320 million in 2047). The aging of the population is accelerating, the sex ratio of birth population keeps high and the population movement and migration tend to be more active. Therefore, “the family planning work will enter a tough period with many difficulties to overcome".

The population problem of the new period is not just a matter of amount. "Generally, population size is still a key matter that will hinder China's social and economic development for a long time. In the long run, population quality, structure and distribution will gradually become the key factors that affect the harmony and sustained development of the society and economy.”

Li said that comprehensively using the population policies and economic and social development policies to promote the integrated development of the people is the key approach to solve the population problem. Therefore, we must properly handle the "two overall arrangements": First, take the relations among the population size, quality, structure and distribution into account and plan accordingly; second, comprehensively arrange the relations between the population and the economy, society, resources and environment. The specific measures include: Stabilizing a low fertility rate to promote a long-term balanced population development; improving the population quality to transform the country from a populous nation into a nation rich in human resources; solving the structural problem of the population; optimizing population distribution and strengthening the service and management of the migrant population.

Emphasize "people-oriented approach"

"The key characteristic of population and family planning work is that it is conducted directly with the vast population at grassroots level. Sincerely observing the expectations of the public is the basis for successfully undertaking the work.” In the two years since she started working at the National Population and Family Planning Commission, Li has visited more than 170 villages and communities in over 130 cities and counties across the country, where she held dozens of grassroots seminars to listen to difficulties faced and consult opinions face to face with the masses at grassroots level.

Li believes that although the population problem is complicated and grim in this new period, there will be more methods than difficulties if China preserves the tradition of maintaining close contact with the masses and meets social demands at a new level.

From launching the all-round reproduction service project shortly after the Wenchuan earthquake to timely visiting migrant workers returning home under the impact of the financial crisis; from launching the "sunshine family planning" action that voluntarily accepts supervision by the masses to implementing the "family planning with credibility" activity governed by the masses at grassroots level, under the guidance of the "people-oriented" approach, China's population and family planning work is transforming from being management-oriented to service and management-oriented and from mainly depending on administrative means to comprehensive control.

"We will try our best to perform practical and beneficial deeds for families complying with family planning regulations to make the population and family planning work really benefit the masses," said Li with deep feeling.

By People's Daily Online

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