A lecturer, talks to students about the human body at a summer camp focusing on sex in Shanghai.(Zhang Dong/for China Daily)
A recent survey of 18,000 college students indicates a need for more effective sex education and greater access to information about reliable methods of contraception.
About 15 percent of the female respondents said they had a sexual experience, while the figure was 28 percent for male respondents, according to a survey in around 130 universities across the country.
One in 10 female university students who has had sexual intercourse has admitted to getting pregnant at least once.
The results, compiled in a report and published by China Family Planning Association on Monday, which was World Contraception Day, also shows that 3.2 percent of them have had multiple pregnancies.
The survey was conducted in 2015 by collecting nearly 18,000 valid questionnaires from respondents with an average age of just over 20. Sixty percent of respondents were women.
More than 60 percent of those who had sex said they used condoms during their last sexual experience. But 83.2 percent also reported that condoms were their preferred contraceptive method. Yet, 16.4 percent said they never took any contraceptive measures.
Among all the respondents, 90.3 percent said they don't want to have children before they finish their college education.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission for the first time has issued leaflets to recommend long-acting reversible contraception methods to the whole childbearing age group, including those who are unmarried.
"Previously, government-supported contraceptives in China had not been well promoted among unmarried people," said Liu Liqing, founding country director of Marie Stopes, one of the world's largest reproductive health charities.
Long-acting reversible methods are those effective for an extended period without constant reapplication, such as intrauterine devices and subdermal implants.
"It is very encouraging. As statistics showed that the number of young people who had premarital sex in China has increased in recent years, helping them to prevent unwanted pregnancy is very important," she said.
"The younger generation now has different way to access information about sex. Learning the basic information on contraception before they have sex is important," said Yao Sipan, founder of Little Wings－a WeChat public account run by a group of high school students.
Since the account released its first article about sex education in October 2015, it has gained 1,220 subscribers, including high school students.
"Instead of just promoting sex education in China, I would like to encourage more people to know more about safe sex as an important part of love. A better understanding of sex helps people enjoy it," said Pan Suiming, a well-known sexologist at Renmin University of China.
"China now has many nonprofit organizations that provide information about sex, especially to youth. The trend in the future might be individual consultation," he said.
Unwanted pregnancies and abortions are a serious problem for young people. In 2014, the Sichuan Sex Education Society launched a six-province survey of more than 5,000 students aged 12 to 24. It showed that 24 percent of respondents had engaged in premarital sex, and 20 percent had abortions.
A recent survey covering more than 12,000 college students by Xi'an Jiaotong University indicated that more than 31 percent had had premarital sex. Only 21.8 percent knew how to use a condom correctly, and only around 30 percent knew the difference between routine oral contraceptives and emergency contraception. Two out of 10 students even considered abortion a contraception method.