China's population, already the world's largest, will keep growing until it hits 1.6 billion in about 2050, state media reported Tuesday.

Despite a declining birthrate, the population is expanding because the number of women of child-bearing age is large, the reports said. China will add 20 million babies on average each year through 2000.Officials holding a four-day meeting on population growth have announced that China will not change its family planning policy that limits most urban families to one child. Many rural areas allow for two children, particularly if the first is a girl.

At the end of 1997, the population of China, including Hong Kong, was 1.243 billion.

Last year, China's birthrate fell to 16.57 per 1,000, 5.54 lower than in 1989, said Peng Peiyun, minister for family planning.