At the start of 2016, the population of Beijing was 21,700,000.
Beijing has always been one of the world’s largest cities. From 1425 to 1650, and then again from 1710 to 1825, it was the largest city in the world. It was also the first city in the modern era to reach a population of more than one million people – a feat it achieved in 1775.
The population of Beijing has grown rapidly in recent years, but Chinese authorities have plans to limit the city’s growth in the near future.
How many people live in Beijing today?
The latest official population data was outlined in the Chinese Government’s most recent (2016-2020) five year plan.
It reported that at the end of 2015 / beginning of 2016, the population of Beijing was 21.7 million people.
The majority of people living in Beijing (13 million) are permanent residents and hold an official Hukou permit. The other 8 million are temporary residents who have migrated to Beijing from other parts of the country, often looking for better opportunities for work.
Beijing population growth
Beijing’s population has grown rapidly in the past sixty years. In 1953, when China held its first post-war census, the population of Beijing was recorded at just 2.7 million people. Today, the population is more than eight times as high.
In the 25 years since China’s market reforms began in earnest, the number of people living in Beijing has more than doubled – from 10.8 million people in 1990 to 21.7 million people today.
Here is a table that lists the Beijing population during selected years, from 1953.
Recent population growth has been driven primarily by migration. The birth rate in the city is quite low, at 8.93 births per thousand population per year.
Improved health care has meant that people in Beijing are also living longer. The average life expectancy in Beijing is now 81.95 years. This is well above the national average of 75.15 years, although below the average in some other major Chinese cities, such as Shanghai where life expectancy recently hit 84.8 years.
Although population growth is slowing, it is still causing concern in the Chinese and Beijing government. Continued population rises can put strain on a city’s infrastructure, and Beijing’s residents suffer from problems with pollution – particularly the dangerously toxic Beijing smog which often shrouds the city.
To address this problem the city has plans to limit population growth in Beijing in the next few years and, potentially, to even reduce the city’s population.
As a part of its five year plan, the government plans to limit Beijing’s population to a maximum of 22 million people in 2016 and 23 million by 2020.
It is not certain that the government will be able to achieve this ambition, however. It has set targets aimed at limiting growth in the past, none of which have been met.
Beijing population density
1,322 people live in every square kilometer of Beijing.
This figure was calculated by taking the 2016 population of Beijing (21.7 million) and dividing it by the size of the city (16,411 km sq).
The bulk of the population in Beijing is concentrated in its central areas, and more than half of the residents of China’s capital city live in just six of its sixteen administrative districts.
For example, the two central districts of Chaoyang and Shijingshan are each home to more than three million people. These two districts, respectively, have a population density of 7,528 people per square mile and 7,701 people per square mile.
This puts immense pressure on the city’s infrastructure and limits people’s quality of life. To address this the city government, as a part of its five year plan, intends to redistribute some the city’s population from the centre to the suburbs. They hope that the population of Beijing’s six central districts will fall by 15% by 2020.
Ethnic groups in Beijing
Han Chinese are the largest single ethnic group in Beijing. They make up 95.69% of the city’s population (2010 census data).
Other groups with significant numbers in the city are Manchu (1.84%) and Hui (1.74%).
There is also a large number of foreign residents in Beijing. Although their numbers are not reliably captured in census data, there were thought to be at least 90,000 foreign residents in Beijing at the time of the 2010 census.
Reflecting its status as a city of internal migrants, many of whom have come to the capital to find work, Beijing has a higher ratio of males:females than the rest of the country. At the time of the 2010 census, the city’s gender balance was 51.6% male and 48.4% female.
The majority of the city’s population is also of working age. According to data from 2004, when the population was much lower at 14.2 million people, the number of residents aged 0-14 was 1.4 million (10%), the number of residents aged 15-64 was 11.2 million (79%) and the number of residents aged over 65 was 1.6 million (11%).
It is likely that the percentage of people who are of working age has increased slightly over the decade since these figures were released.
Where is Beijing?
Beijing is a city in northern China, located near the coast.
It is surrounded by Hebei province in the north, south and west. Tianjin province is to the south east of Beijing and, sandwiched between Beijing and the coast, acts as the city’s port.
Beijing has been the capital city of China for most of the last eight hundred years.
The name Beijing means ‘Northern Capital’. It was previously known outside of China as Peking.