Everywhere in Beijing you now see these big bulletin boards announcing the current Census. Yep, that's right, "China [just] started to count its one billion+ people". (The short article explains why doing a census in China is not easy, as not everyone will gladly share information about their whereabouts, in particular if they are illegally living and working in cities, away from their rural home towns.)
Photo on right: Will this house be included in the census? (Local statistics: Four people and three gold fish.)
Back in 2000, China had 1.29 billion residents, and in April 2011 we'll know the current score. If you can't wait till April, try this Website of the "China Population Development Research Center". After 30 seconds or so, the green clocks on the left will start displaying estimates of the current number of Chinese (top clock), and the number of Chinese born this year (bottom clock). (The Dutch site has a clock also, though I didn't see its population counter move :-))
According to those up-to-date population estimates, China has--not surprisingly--still the largest population, with about 1,340,500,000 people who together form 19.5 percent of the world population. The United States is third, with a feeble 310,659,000 citizens, or 4.52 percent of the world population; and The Netherlands comes in at 61, with a grand total of 16,656,950 kaaskoppen(about the same number of people that cram into a metro here on a random Monday morning I think).
To make things worse, this year, for the first time, China will also be counting its foreigners. I suppose we just arrived on time. Next time you see those startling statistics, you can just brush them off and say: "Oh, but Paul and Anna were counted as well, so it's really not that bad!" (Incidentally, we were also counted in the U.S. earlier this year: Global numbers will be disastrous for 2010.)
I took this picture below last week, when I visited a temple close to the third ring road. The English text reads "Census benefits all".