Rarely has a census report received as much attention as the one China released this past May.

Given China’s long history of fiddling with demographic data, the one-month delay in releasing its 2020 census results was suspicious, to say the least. But it was what happened soon thereafter that effectively confirmed China’s bleak demographic reality.

Officially, China’s demographic situation is nothing to be alarmed about: The 2020 census showed that China’s population reached the expected level of 1.41 billion people in 2020, and continues to grow. And yet, less than a month after the census was released, Chinese authorities announced the loosening of family-planning rules, so that households can have three children, rather than two. They have now also put forward a more comprehensive plan for boosting the fertility rate.