Thanks to drastic increases in crop yields and the falling need for manual farm labor, a mass migration towards cities started in the years following the Industrial Revolution.
This phenomenon first originated in developed economies as people moved to work in factories that produced consumer goods at a scale never before seen. Then in the 1950s, developing economies started to follow suit.
The results have been staggering, and today a country like China has at least 35 massive cities that each have an economic output comparable to entire countries.
After many decades of urbanization, the portion of people living in urban areas has surpassed the total rural population. This happened in 2007, and we are now in the first window in human history in which more people are city dwellers.
So what cities are the meccas for urban migration today? And which are falling out of favor?
The Fastest Growing Cities (2000-2016)
The following interactive and zoomable map was put together by Datawrapper, using data from the United Nations.
It lists 500 cities with over 1 million people, and is shaded based on annualized population growth rate between 2000 and 2016. Percent growth corresponds with darker shades of teal, while orange symbolizes negative growth over the timeframe.
It’s strongly recommended to explore the map by zooming in on particular regions. Highlighting cities themselves will give you population details for 2000 and 2016, as well as an annualized percentage growth rate.
Here are some areas we thought were worth looking at in more detail:
North America is mostly what one may expect. The biggest cities (NYC, LA, Chicago, Toronto) aren’t changing too fast, while some cities in the Rust Belt (Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) have slightly negative growth rates. Austin, TX and Charlotte, NC seem to be the fastest growing cities in the U.S., overall.
Colombia’s Bogotá stands out as the city in South America growing at the most blistering pace. It gained 3.6 million people in the 2000-2016 year period, good for a 2.8% annual growth rate.
China and India
These two populous countries are home to many of the dark-shaded circles on the map. It’s worth looking at an additional screenshot here (just in case if you haven’t zoomed in above).
Look at the coast of China – it’s dotted with rapidly expanding cities. Incredibly, in the 16-year span of data, some of these cities have doubled in terms of population. Others like Xiamen have tripled in size. Shanghai alone has gained 10.5 million people in this span of time.
In India, the fastest growing cities are in the south, where there are at least 10 large cities that have roughly doubled in size. Delhi, which is in the north, has added nearly 11 million inhabitants over the same stretch.
In Africa, we see the names of many of the cities that are projected to be the world’s largest megacities by 2100.
Lagos in Nigeria has doubled to nearly 14 million people between 2000-2016, and it is expected to explode to 88.3 million people by 2100 to be the world’s most populous city overall. Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Kinshasa (DRC) are two other places that are set to grow rapidly by 2100, rounding out the list of the world’s three most populous megacities.
Visualizing China’s $18 Trillion Economy in One Chart
China’s economy reached a GDP of 114 trillion yuan ($18 trillion) in 2021, well above government targets. What sectors drove that growth?
Visualizing China’s $18 Trillion Economy in 2021
China is the world’s second largest economy after the U.S., and it is expected to eventually climb into the number one position in the coming decades.
While China’s economy has had a much rockier start this year due to zero-tolerance COVID-19 lockdowns and supply chain issues, our visualization covers a full year of data for 2021—a year in which most economies recovered after the initial chaos of the pandemic.
In 2021, China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reached ¥114 trillion ($18 trillion in USD), according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The country’s economy outperformed government targets of 6% growth, with the overall economy growing by 8.1%.
Let’s take a look at what powers China’s modern economy.
Breaking Down China’s Economy By Sector
|Sector||2021 Total GDP |
|2021 Total GDP |
|Wholesale and Retail Trades||¥10.5T||$1.7T||9.2%|
|Farming, Forestry, Animal Husbandry, and Fishery||¥8.7T||$1.4T||7.6%|
|Transport, Storage, and Post||¥4.7T||$0.7T||4.1%|
|Information Transmission, Software and IT Services||¥4.4T||$0.7T||3.9%|
|Renting & Leasing Activities and Business Services||¥3.5T||$0.6T||3.1%|
|Accommodation and Restaurants||¥1.8T||$0.3T||1.6%|
Industrial production—activity in the manufacturing, mining, and utilities sectors—is by far the leading driver of China’s economy. In 2021, the sector generated ¥37.3 trillion, or one-third of the country’s total economic activity.
Despite a slowdown in December, wholesale and retail trades also performed strongly in 2021. As the main gauge of consumption, it was affected by lockdown measures and the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant towards the end of the year, but still rose by double digits, reaching a total of ¥10.5 trillion*.
“Other services”, which includes everything from scientific research and development to education and social services, generated 16% of China’s total economy in 2021, or ¥18.1 trillion.
*Editor’s note: At time of publishing, China’s government seems to have since adjusted this number to ¥11.0 trillion, which is not consistent with the original data set provided, but worth noting.
Where is China’s GDP Headed?
China’s economy recovered noticeably faster than most major economies last year, and as the overall trend below shows, the country has grown consistently in the years prior.
Before the pandemic hit, China’s quarterly GDP growth had been quite stable at just above 5%.
After the initial onset of COVID-19, the country’s economy faltered, mirroring economies around the globe. But after a strong recovery into 2021, resurging cases caused a new series of crackdowns on the private sector, slowing down GDP growth considerably.
With the slowdown continuing into early 2022, China’s economic horizon still looks uncertain. The lockdown in Shanghai is expected to continue all the way to June 1st, and over recent months there have been hundreds of ships stuck outside of Shanghai’s port as a part of ongoing supply chain challenges.
China’s Zero-COVID Policy: Good or Bad for the Economy?
While every country reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic differently, China adopted a zero-COVID policy of strict lockdowns to control cases and outbreaks.
For most of 2021, the policy didn’t deter GDP growth. Despite some major cities fully or partially locked down to control regional outbreaks, the country’s economy still paced well ahead of many other major economies.
But the policy faced a challenge with the emergence of the Omicron variant. Despite lockdowns and an 88% vaccination rate nationally, seven out of China’s 31 provinces and all of the biggest cities have reported Omicron cases.
And China’s zero-COVID policy has not affected all sectors equally. Industrial production rose by more than 10% in the first 11 months of 2021, despite city lockdowns around the country. That’s because many factories in China are in suburban industrial parks outside the cities, and employees often live nearby.
But many sectors like hotels and restaurants have been more severely affected by city lockdowns. Many global economies are starting to transition to living with COVID, with China remaining as one of the last countries to follow a zero-COVID policy. Does that ensure the country’s economy will continue to slow in 2022, or will China manage to recover and maintain one of the world’s fastest growing economies?
Satellite Maps: Shanghai’s Supply Chain Standstill
China’s lockdown of Shanghai is causing massive back-ups at the world’s largest container port. Hundreds of ships are now waiting at sea.
Satellite Maps: Shanghai’s Supply Chain Standstill
China has mandated a strict “zero COVID” policy since the onset of the global pandemic, which has led to tight lockdowns across the country whenever cases have started to spike.
Recently, lockdown restrictions have been enacted in major cities like Shenzhen and Shanghai, as China deals with one of its worst outbreaks since Wuhan in December 2019.
These cautionary measures have had far-reaching impacts on China’s economy, especially on its supply chain and logistics operations. Shanghai’s port system, which handles about one-fifth of China’s export containers, is currently experiencing significant delays as a result of the recent government lockdown.
Shipping volume has dipped drastically since early March this year, right after partial lockdowns began in Shanghai. By the end of March, as restrictions continued to tighten up, shipping activity dipped nearly 30% compared to pre-lockdown levels. And while activity has recently picked up, it’s still far below average shipment volumes prior to the recent lockdown.
While the port is still technically operating, shipping delays will likely cause hiccups in the global supply chain. That’s because the Shanghai port is a major hub for international trade, and one of the largest and busiest container ports in the world.
How Bad is the Back-Up?
Here’s a closer look at satellite imagery that was captured by the Sentinel-1 satellite, which shows the current congestion at Shanghai’s port as of April 14, 2022. In the image, a majority of the white dots are cargo ships, many of which have been stuck in limbo for days.
Traffic has been building up at the Shanghai terminal. As of April 19, 2022, over 470 ships are still waiting to deliver goods to China. If you’d like to check out the Shanghai ports most up-to-date traffic, this live map by MarineTraffice provides real-time updates.
The number of container vessels waiting outside of Chinese ports today is 195% higher than it was in February. – Windward
Much of these delays are due to transport issues—an estimated 90% of trucks that support import and export activities are currently offline, which is causing dwell time for containers at Shanghai marine terminals to increase drastically.
Wait times for at Shanghai marine terminals has increased nearly 75% since the lockdowns began. Delays at the Shanghai terminal have sent ships to neighboring ports in Ningbo and Yangshan, but those ports are beginning to get congested as well.
The global impacts of this current bottleneck are still pending, and depend greatly on the length of Shanghai’s lockdown. According to an article in Freight Waves, this could turn into the biggest supply chain issue since the start of the pandemic if China’s marine shipping congestion isn’t cleared up soon.
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