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Map: China’s Provinces Rival Countries in Population Size

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Map: China

Chart: China’s Provinces Rival Countries in Population Size

The very mention of China triggers both awe and anxiety in the mainstream media.

With the globe’s largest GDP (PPP) at $23.12 trillion, China is indisputably a close contender for the title of world’s largest economic superpower along with the United States.

But what makes this possible in the first place? The countryโ€™s economic clout arguably stems from its human capital: a 1.4 billion-strong population.

A Force to be Reckoned With

Each of Chinaโ€™s 33 distinct regions is home to a population size on par with entire countries:

Chinese ProvincePopulation (millions)Comparable CountriesPopulation (millions)
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Anhui62๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France64.5
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Beijing21.7๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Finland, ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden, ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway20.7
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Chongqing30.5๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Saudi Arabia31.7
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Fujian38.7๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ซ Afghanistan34.6
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Gansu26.1๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡ช Yemen29.1
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Guangdong110๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ Philippines103.2
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Guangxi48.4๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด Colombia48.7
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Guizhou35.5๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Morocco34.5
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Hainan9.1๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Austria8.7
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Hebei74.7๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ Thailand69
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Heilongjiang38๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ถ Iraq37.9
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Henan95.3๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ Egypt90.2
๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Hong Kong7.3๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ฒ Jamaica, ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ท Costa Rica7.7
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Hubei58.8๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea51.2
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Hunan68.2๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United Kingdom65.6
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Jiangsu80๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท Turkey79.8
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Jiangxi45.9๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท Argentina43.6
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Jilin27.3๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ญ Ghana27.6
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Liaoning43.8๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain46.4
๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ด Macau0.61๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ช Montenegro0.62
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Inner Mongolia25.2๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark, ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡บ Luxembourg, ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands23.3
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Ningxia6.7๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ป El Salvador6.3
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Qinghai5.9๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore5.6
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Shaanxi38.1๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland38
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Shandong99.5๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ณ Vietnam92.7
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Shanghai24.2๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania, ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท Croatia24.5
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Shanxi36.8๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada36.2
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Sichuan82.6๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany82.3
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Tianjin15.6๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Slovakia, ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Czech Republic16
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Xinjiang24๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia24.4
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Xizangย (Tibet)3.3๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡พ Uruguay3.5
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Yunnan47.7๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช Kenya45.4
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Zhejiang55.9๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ South Africa55.6

To drill down further, China is composed of:

  • 4 municipalities
    Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin
  • 5 autonomous regions
    Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Tibet, and Xinjiang
  • 2 special administrative regions (SAR)
    Hong Kong and Macau

The remaining 22 are the officially-labeled provinces of China.

It’s worth noting that Taiwan is also claimed as one of China’s provinces, even though there is some ambiguity and disagreement around Taiwan’s actual political status.

Nevertheless, itโ€™s clear that every region, and especially the massive cities with them, are substantial contributors to the country’s growth and success.

A New Demographic Era Ahead

Going forward, Chinaโ€™s population may cease to be a strength that contributes to rapid economic growth.

In the wake of the infamous one child policy, the country could soon by dealing with the demographic time bomb of a rapidly aging population.

China population pyramid

Source: Population Pyramid

By 2050, almost four in ten people in China will be above the age of 60, which will create an added strain on the already declining working-age population.

The good news for China?

The country is making moves to combat the challenges ahead, including ambitious plans to build a $1 trillion artificial intelligence industry by 2030 – an attempt to close the impending labor gap.

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China

Meet Chinaโ€™s 113 Cities With More Than One Million People

China has the same amount of 1 million+ population cities as both North America and the EU combined. Here they all are, from biggest to smallest.

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In 2010, China’s urban-dwelling population surpassed its rural population, marking a monumental demographic milestone in the country’s history.

Just three decades prior, China looked markedly different. Only 20% of Chinese citizens lived in urban areas, and many of today’s metropolises were still small villages.

Since then, huge swaths of the population have moved from farmland into cities, a shift that is still causing many urban areas to swell in size. Case in point is the growth of Guangzhou, which lays just north of Hong Kong. From 1980 to today, more than 18 million people moved into the city. A 40-year-old born in Guangzhou will have seen their small, regional city mushroom into one of the largest urban amalgamations on Earth.

Of course, this is just one example of a process that has been altering the landscape of cities from the coast of the South China Sea out to the Eurasian Steppe.

The One Million+ Club

According to Demographia’s World Urban Areas report, there are now 113 urban areas in China that surpass the one million population threshold. In comparison, North America and the EU combined have 114 urban areas that surpass one million people.

Below is a full breakdown of China’s one million+ club:

Meet Chinaโ€™s 113 Cities With More Than One Million People

Unparalleled Urbanization

The massive scale of rural-to-urban migration isn’t just a major development within China, it has no parallel in modern history.

Since 1980, over half a billion people have moved from the countryside to an urban center. The construction of these new cities took a staggering amount of raw materials. Few data points highlight the scale of construction better than China’s cement production in recent years.

china cement production

In 2018, Chinese construction used about 8x the amount of second place India, which has a similar population size.

Megacities on Megacities

Cities with over 10 million inhabitants are defined as megacities. China is already home to six megacities, with another three urban areas well on the way to achieving that status.

In fact, some megacities within close proximity have grown so large that they are merging into contiguous urban areas. The most prominent example of this phenomenon is in the Pearl River Delta region of China.

The Pearl River Delta region is not only home to the megacities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, but also a number of other sizable cities that are quickly merging into a unified continuous entity containing up to 50 million people. Demographia still considers most of these cities to be separate labor markets โ โ€” but as more connections form across the region, the Pearl River Delta could be poised to become the largest unified urban area in human history.

Westward Migration

As megacities like Shanghai and Shenzhen have grown and developed, they’ve also become more expensive places to live and do business. The economic evolution of these cities has created opportunity for smaller, less developed cities to woo both residents and businesses.

This natural reshuffling has led to impressive growth in cities further inland like Zhengzhou, which sits 350 miles (630 kms) east of the coastline where many of the country’s largest cities reside.

Using the “build it and they will come” approach, the city converted a 160 square mile (410 sq km) patch of empty land into the Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone (ZAEZ). The project has proven wildly successful, and the city even has the nickname “Apple City” thanks to the presence of Foxconn (which produces the iPhone) and a cluster of other smartphone manufacturers.

This airport-centered zone was developed with the full political and economic backing of Beijing as part of a broader effort to increase economic activity in China’s interior cities. Zhengzhou has nearly tripled in size over the last decade, a powerful testament to the shift in economic momentum.

China’s Inland All-Stars:

Urban AreaPopulation 2010Population 2019Change (2010-19)
Chengdu4.8M12.1M+152%
Xi'an4.0M7.1M+77%
Wuhan5.2M8.5M+63%
Chongqing5.4M8.3M+53%

Compare the numbers above to fast-growing cities in the U.S., such as Las Vegas or Phoenix, which managed 33% and 12% growth respectively over the last decade.

If this trend continues, China’s one million+ club will most likely expand once fresh census data is released in 2021.

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How China Overtook the U.S. as the World’s Major Trading Partner

China has become the world’s major trading partner โ€“ and now, 128 of 190 countries trade more with China than they do with the United States.

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How China Overtook the U.S. As the World’s Trade Partner

In 2018, trade accounted for 59% of global GDP, up nearly 1.5 times since 1980.

Over this timeframe, international trade has transformed significantlyโ€”not just in terms of volume and composition, but also in terms of the countries that the rest of the world leans on for their most important trade relationships.

Now, a critical shift is occurring in the landscape, and it may surprise you to learn that China has already usurped the U.S. as the world’s most dominant trading partner.

Trading Places: A Global Shift

Todayโ€™s animation comes from the Lowy Institute, and it pulls data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) database on bilateral trade flows, to determine whether the U.S. or China is a bigger trading partner for each country from 1980 to 2018.

The results are stark: before 2000, the U.S. was at the helm of global trade, as over 80% of countries traded with the U.S. more than they did with China. By 2018, that number had dropped sharply to just 30%, as China swiftly took top position in 128 of 190 countries.

The researchers pinpoint Chinaโ€™s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization as a major turning point in China’s international trade relationships. The dramatic shift that followed is clearly demonstrated in the visualization aboveโ€”between 2005 and 2010, a number of countries tipped towards Chinese influence, especially in Africa and Asia.

Over time, China’s dominance has grown dramatically. Itโ€™s no wonder then, that China and the U.S. have a contentious trade relationship themselves, as both nations battle it out for first place.

A Tale of Two Economies

The United States and China are competitors in many ways, but to be successful they must rely on each other for mutually beneficial trade. However, it’s also the major issue on which they are struggling to reach a common ground.

The U.S. has been vocal about negotiating more balanced trade agreements with China. In fact, a mid-2018 poll shows that 62% of Americans consider their trade relationship with China to be unfair.

Since 2018, both parties have faced a fraught relationship, imposing major tariffs on consumer and industrial goodsโ€”and retaliations are reaching greater and greater heights:

trade war china us

While a delicate truce has been reached at the moment, the trade war has caused a significant drag on global growth, and the World Bank estimates it will continue to have an effect into 2021.

At the same time, Chinaโ€™s sphere of influence continues to grow.

One Belt, One Road, One Trade Direction?

China seems to have a finger in every pie. The nation is financing a flurry of megaprojects across Asia and Africaโ€”but one broader initiative stands above the rest.

Chinaโ€™s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) Initiative, planned for a 2049 completion, is advancing at a furious pace. In 2019 alone, Chinese companies signed contracts worth up to $128 billion to start Chinese large-scale infrastructure projects in various countries.

While building new highways and ports abroad is beneficial for Chinese financiers, OBOR is also about creating new markets and trade routes for Chinese goods in Asia. Recent research found that the OBOR program’s infrastructure expansion and logistics performance improvements led to positive effects on Chinaโ€™s exports.

Nevertheless, itโ€™s clear the new infrastructure network is already transforming global trade, possibly cementing Chinaโ€™s position as the worldโ€™s major trading partner for years to come.

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