The population of China currently exceeds the population of India by approximately 70 million, according to estimates from the United Nations. The UN's World Population Prospects report puts the population of China at 1.38 billion, compared to 1.31 billion for India. Other sources' estimates of current population range from 1.37 to 1.40 billion for China and from 1.28 to 1.31 billion for India.
Just as current population estimates differ, so do forecasts as to when the difference in the population between the two countries will level off.
To compare projections from different sources in detail, visit our World in 2020 page.
What are the leading international institutions expecting in the years ahead for the world’s economies? How will demographic profiles shift by world region? Which countries are at the precipice of becoming world-scale natural resource producers? Explore global forecasts with Knoema!
Global expectations that the Indian population will surpass that of China stem from these two countries belonging to different fertility groups. China is considered to be a "low fertility" country while India is generally considered an "intermediate fertility" country. India, like China, has already experienced a substantial decline in fertility as a result of the implementation of its National Family Planning Program in 1952, but the program did not lead to the same dramatic population changes as experienced under China's One-Child Policy. Other factors behind the anticipated rapid population growth in India are high illiteracy and poverty rates, immigration from Bangladesh and Nepal, and declining mortality rates.
These same factors have already led India to outpace China in terms of total contribution to world population growth. During the period 2010-2015, the population of India increased by 16 million - the highest contribution of any country, accounting for 19% of the global population increase - while the population of China grew by 7 million.
India is expected to continue to lead globally in contribution to population growth through 2050, followed by Nigeria. Various international agencies estimate that India's current growth rate is in the range of 1.2 to 1.32 percent, while China's is lower at about 0.46 to 0.56 percent. And although India's population growth rate is continuously declining - expected to drop below 1% by 2024 and below 0% threshold by 2069 - it is not expected to drop below China's growth rate during the next 100 years, virtually ensuring India's status as the world population leader for some time to come.