A man rides a bicycle along the Bund while buildings of Pudong’s Lujiazui financial district stand across the Huangpu River as the sun rises in Shanghai (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Beijing's Population Is Shrinking, and China Is Fine With That

(Bloomberg) -- Bejiing’s population has dropped for the first time in at least 17 years, according to state media, suggesting government efforts to tackle traffic jams, pollution and internal Chinese migration are taking hold.

The number of people in China’s capital dropped by 22,000 -- or 0.1 percent -- to 21.7 million at the end of last year, the China Daily reported Monday. That may not seem like much, but comes after a 59 percent surge in Beijing’s population between 2000 and 2016, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Beijing's Population Is Shrinking, and China Is Fine With That

Chinese officials have sought to slow migration to its biggest cities by putting caps on residency permits that give people access to schools, community services and hospitals, and tearing down informal housing often used by workers who move from other regions. Authorities are also creating an economic hub linking Beijing with the nearby port city of Tianjin and surrounding province of Hebei, with some wholesale markets and heavy manufacturing facilities already shifted out of the capital or shut down.

The 21.7 million figure, an estimate from the municipality’s statistics agency, puts Beijing fourth among the world’s biggest cities, when benchmarked against the ‘The World’s Cities in 2016’ report from the United Nations. According to that data, Shanghai is China’s biggest city with 24.5 million inhabitants, and ranks third worldwide behind Tokyo and New Delhi.

Chongqing, considered a municipality by China but counted differently on the UN list, has about 30 million inhabitants spread across its province-size land area in southern China, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The differences of what defines a city, urban hub or metropolitan area can be fuzzy, which is why some population lists include Jakarta and Manila in the top five.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Lee Miller in Bangkok at lmiller@bloomberg.net.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Lee Miller