Journal of Geographical Sciences

, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 925–942 | Cite as

The past, present, and future of population geography in China: Progress, challenges and opportunities



Population geography (PopGeo), although a sub-discipline of human geography, should have been well developed in China in light of its national population size and unique demographic issues, regional socio-economic development, and biophysical differences. Yet it typically lags behind the development of its parent disciplines, especially demography and geography. Specifically, PopGeo in Chinese higher education is still at a low level in terms of the three major aspects of disciplinary development: academic majors for higher education, academic conferences, and journals. The research content of PopGeo in China has focused on the growth, composition, change, distribution, and carrying capacity of population at the meso- and macro-spatial scales. As the most populated country in the world, questions about how and why the population changes, where the population settles and migrates to, its maximum carrying capacity, and how to guide sound development of population matter to society and the economy, are always important topics in the PopGeo studies in China. In contrast, some new population phenomena such as human space–time behaviors (commuting, remittances, and friends’ interaction), popular in the scientific community abroad, are not fully investigated at the micro-level. Presently, PopGeo in China may face both challenges and opportunities because of the adjustment of fertility policies and implementation of national new urbanization plans at the national level. It is this occasion that calls for a state-of-the-art review of the development of PopGeo since the 1980s, the turning point of an increasing number of PopGeo studies in China. We aim to reveal the current status of PopGeo in China to the world, and shed light on its further study.


population geography fertility policies adjustment population aging new urbanization China 


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The authors express sincere gratitude to Professor Shuming Bao from the China Data Center, University of Michigan, for valuable suggestions concerning this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Institute of Geographic Science and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR), Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhiming Feng
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Fangzhou Li
    • 1
    • 4
  • Yanzhao Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peng Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchCASBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Collaborative Innovation Center for Geopolitical Setting of Southwest China and Borderland DevelopmentKunmingChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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