China is the most populous country in the world, accounting for 21% of the estimated world population. Until recently, it was also the only one to have attained the status of demographic billionaire, but India has also reached a one billion population. Government policy in the 1990s called for an extensive family planning program to limit population growth. The population of China in 2003 was estimated by the United Nations at 1,289,697,000. According to the UN, the annual population growth rate for 2000–2005 is 0.73%, with the projected population for the year 2015 at 1,402,321,000. Approximately 7% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 31% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 106 males for every 100 females in the country in 2003. The average population density in 2002 was 134 per sq km (347 per sq mi), but the distribution of the population throughout China is extremely uneven. The most densely populated areas near the coast have a population density of more than 400 people per sq km (1,036 per sq mi). The western plateaus are sparsely populated.
It was estimated by the Population Reference Bureau that 32% of the population lived in urban areas in 2001. The capital city, Beijing, had a population of 10,825,000 in that year. Government policy has sought to limit the growth of the large eastern cities, especially Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, and to promote the growth of smaller cities away from the coast. China has over 60 metropolitan areas with populations greater than 750,000. The largest urban centers were Shanghai, 14,173,000; Beijing, 12,033,000; and Tianjin, 10,239,000. Other large metropolitan areas included Shenyang, 5,681,000; Guangzhou, 5,162,000; Harbin, 5,475,000; Chengdu, 5,293,000; Wuhan, 4,750,000; Hangzhou, 6,389,000; Changchun, 5,566,000; Chongqing, 3,896,000; Jinan, 4,789,000; Qingdao, 4,376,000; Xi'an, 3,352,000; and Dalian, 3,153,000. According to the United Nations, the urban population growth rate for 2000–2005 was 2.3%.