As recently as one decade ago, there was no “field” of Chinese demography. There were virtually no demographers of China and little available data. It is fair to say that China was at once the largest and the least known of any human population.
The change has been sudden. New sources of data now place China among the better-documented national populations. Publications on Chinese population have boomed. In consequence, we can now speak of a field of Chinese demography, although it is hardly in a steady “state.” We can only outline the explosion of demographic research that is continually expanding and refining our understanding of Chinese population today and in the past. This outpouring of data and knowledge provides unprecedented opportunities for the study of Chinese society and offers unusual challenges to our understanding of comparative population dynamics.