China, the most populous country in the world, had a total population of 1,292.27 million at the end of 2003, according to the "Statistical Communiqué on National Economic and Social Development in 2003" published by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Moreover, the population density was high, with 135 people per sq km but unevenly distributed. Along the densely populated coastal areas in the east, there were more than 400 people per sq km; in the central areas, over 200; and in the sparsely populated plateaus in the west, there were less than 10 people per sq km.
The following table gives an overall view of the composition of the population of China as of the 2000 national census:
When the PRC was founded in 1949, China had a population of 541.67 million. With a stable society, production development, improvement of medical and health conditions as well as a lack of awareness of the importance of birth control, China witnessed a rapid population increase, reaching 806.71 million in 1969. In the 1970s, China began to implement a policy of family planning to control population growth, which brought the beginning of a decrease in birth rate. By the end of 2003, the birth rate stood at 12.41 per thousand with a mortality rate at 6.4 per thousand, leaving a natural growth rate of 6.01 per thousand, according to the National Statistics Bureau.
In line with the requirements of the Outline of National Economic and Social Development during the Tenth Five-Year Plan period, adopted at the Fourth Session of the Ninth NPC in March 2001, in the Tenth Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005) the goal is for the average annual natural increase rate of China's population not to exceed 9 per thousand and for the population by 2005 to be less than 1.33 billion. By 2010 the population of China is expected not to exceed 1.4 billion.