The Population of China Compared with the Rest of the World
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The Population of China in Perspective

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The Population of China in Perspective

China is the world’s most populous country with an astounding 1.44 billion citizens. Altogether, the size of the population of China is larger than nearly four regions combined: South America, Europe (excluding Russia), the U.S. & Canada, and Australia & New Zealand.

Using data from the United Nations, this unconventional map reveals the comparative size of China’s population next to a multitude of other countries.

Note: To keep the visualization easy to read, we’ve simplified the shapes representing countries. For example, although we’ve included Alaska and Hawaii in U.S. population totals, the U.S. is represented by the contiguous states map only.

A Historical Perspective

Looking at history, the population of China has more than doubled since the 1950s. The country was the first in the world to hit one billion people in 1980.

However, in 1979, in an attempt to control the burgeoning population, the infamous one-child policy was introduced, putting controls on how many children Chinese citizens could have.

While the government eventually recognized the negative implications of this policy, it appeared to be too little, too late. The two-child policy was introduced in 2016, but it has not yet reversed the current slowdown in population growth.

YearChina's Population (Millions)Annual Rate of Growth (%)Median AgeFertility Rate
1955612.22.00%22.26.11
1960660.41.53%21.35.48
1965724.21.86%19.86.15
1970827.62.70%19.36.30
1975926.22.28%20.34.85
19801,000.11.55%21.93.01
19851,075.61.47%23.52.52
19901,176.91.82%24.92.73
19951,240.91.07%27.41.83
20001,290.60.79%30.01.62
20051,330.80.62%32.61.61
20101,368.80.57%35.01.62
20151,406.80.55%36.71.64
20161,414.00.51%37.01.65
20171,421.00.49%37.01.65
20181,427.60.47%37.01.65
20191,433.80.43%37.01.65
20201,439.30.39%38.41.69

The fertility rate has been consistently falling from over 6 births per woman in 1955 to 1.69 in 2020. Today, the median age in China is 38 years old, rising from 22 in 1955. Longer life spans and fewer births form a demographic trend that has many social and economic implications.

Overall, China’s young population is becoming scarcer, meaning that the domestic labor market will eventually begin shrinking. Additionally, the larger share of elderly citizens will require publicly-funded resources, resulting in a heavier societal and financial burden.

Strength in Numbers

Despite these trends, however, China’s current population remains massive, constituting almost 20% of the world’s total population. Right now 71% of the Chinese population is between the ages of 15 and 65 years old, meaning that the labor supply is still immense.

Here are the populations of 65 countries from various regions of the world—and added together, you’ll see they still fall short of the population of China:

CountryPopulation Region
🇺🇸 U.S.331,002,651North America
🇨🇦 Canada37,742,154North America
🇧🇷 Brazil212,559,417South America
🇨🇴 Colombia50,882,891South America
🇦🇷 Argentina45,195,774South America
🇵🇪 Peru32,971,854South America
🇻🇪 Venezuela28,435,940South America
🇨🇱 Chile19,116,201South America
🇪🇨 Ecuador17,643,054South America
🇧🇴 Bolivia11,673,021South America
🇵🇾 Paraguay7,132,538South America
🇺🇾 Uruguay3,473,730South America
🇬🇾 Guyana786,552South America
🇸🇷 Suriname586,632South America
🇬🇫 French Guyana298,682South America
🇫🇰 Falkland Islands3,480South America
🇦🇺 Australia25,499,884Oceania
🇳🇿 New Zealand4,822,233Oceania
🇩🇪 Germany83,783,942Europe
🇫🇷 France65,273,511Europe
🇳🇱 Netherlands17,134,872Europe
🇧🇪 Belgium11,589,623Europe
🇦🇹 Austria9,006,398Europe
🇨🇭 Switzerland8,654,622Europe
🇱🇺 Luxembourg625,978Europe
🇲🇨 Monaco39,242Europe
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein38,128Europe
🇮🇹 Italy60,461,826Europe
🇪🇸 Spain46,754,778Europe
🇬🇷 Greece10,423,054Europe
🇵🇹 Portugal10,196,709Europe
🇷🇸 Serbia8,737,371Europe
🇭🇷 Croatia4,105,267Europe
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina3,280,819Europe
🇦🇱 Albania2,877,797Europe
🇲🇰 North Macedonia2,083,374Europe
🇸🇮 Slovenia2,078,938Europe
🇲🇪 Montenegro628,066Europe
🇲🇹 Malta441,543Europe
🇦🇩 Andorra77,265Europe
🇸🇲 San Marino33,931Europe
🇬🇮 Gibraltar33,691Europe
🇻🇦 Vatican City801Europe
🇬🇧 United Kingdom67,886,011Europe
🇸🇪 Sweden10,099,265Europe
🇩🇰 Denmark5,792,202Europe
🇫🇮 Finland5,540,720Europe
🇳🇴 Norway5,421,241Europe
🇮🇪 Ireland4,937,786Europe
🇱🇹 Lithuania2,722,289Europe
🇱🇻 Latvia1,886,198Europe
🇪🇪 Estonia1,326,535Europe
🇮🇸 Iceland341,243Europe
Channel Islands173,863Europe
🇮🇲 Isle of Man85,033Europe
🇫🇴 Faroe Islands48,863Europe
🇺🇦 Ukraine43,733,762Europe
🇵🇱 Poland37,846,611Europe
🇷🇴 Romania19,237,691Europe
🇨🇿 Czechia10,708,981Europe
🇭🇺 Hungary9,660,351Europe
🇧🇾 Belarus9,449,323Europe
🇧🇬 Bulgaria6,948,445Europe
🇸🇰 Slovakia5,459,642Europe
🇲🇩 Moldova4,033,963Europe
Total1,431,528,252

To break it down even further, here’s a look at the population of each of the regions listed above:

  • Australia and New Zealand: 30.3 million
  • Europe (excluding Russia): 601.7 million
  • South America: 430.8 million
  • The U.S. and Canada: 368.7 million

Combined their population is 1.432 billion compared to China’s 1.439 billion.

Overall, the population of China has few comparables. India is one exception, with a population of 1.38 billion. As a continent, Africa comes in close as well at 1.34 billion people. Here’s a breakdown of Africa’s population for further comparison.

CountryPopulation Region
🇳🇬 Nigeria206,139,589Africa
🇬🇭 Ghana31,072,940Africa
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire26,378,274Africa
🇳🇪 Niger24,206,644Africa
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso20,903,273Africa
🇲🇱 Mali20,250,833Africa
🇸🇳 Senegal16,743,927Africa
🇬🇳 Guinea13,132,795Africa
🇧🇯 Benin12,123,200Africa
🇹🇬 Togo8,278,724Africa
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone7,976,983Africa
🇱🇷 Liberia5,057,681Africa
🇲🇷 Mauritania4,649,658Africa
🇬🇲 Gambia2,416,668Africa
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau1,968,001Africa
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde555,987Africa
🇸🇭 Saint Helena6,077Africa
🇿🇦 South Africa59,308,690Africa
🇳🇦 Namibia2,540,905Africa
🇧🇼 Botswana2,351,627Africa
🇱🇸 Lesotho2,142,249Africa
🇸🇿 Eswatini1,160,164Africa
🇪🇬 Egypt102,334,404Africa
🇩🇿 Algeria43,851,044Africa
🇸🇩 Sudan43,849,260Africa
🇲🇦 Morocco36,910,560Africa
🇹🇳 Tunisia11,818,619Africa
🇱🇾 Libya6,871,292Africa
🇪🇭 Western Sahara597,339Africa
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo89,561,403Africa
🇦🇴 Angola32,866,272Africa
🇨🇲 Cameroon26,545,863Africa
🇹🇩 Chad16,425,864Africa
🇨🇬 Congo5,518,087Africa
🇨🇫 Central African Republic4,829,767Africa
🇬🇦 Gabon2,225,734Africa
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea1,402,985Africa
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe219,159Africa
🇪🇹 Ethiopia114,963,588Africa
🇹🇿 Tanzania59,734,218Africa
🇰🇪 Kenya53,771,296Africa
🇺🇬 Uganda45,741,007Africa
🇲🇿 Mozambique31,255,435Africa
🇲🇬 Madagascar27,691,018Africa
🇲🇼 Malawi19,129,952Africa
🇿🇲 Zambia18,383,955Africa
🇸🇴 Somalia15,893,222Africa
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe14,862,924Africa
🇷🇼 Rwanda12,952,218Africa
🇧🇮 Burundi11,890,784Africa
🇸🇸 South Sudan11,193,725Africa
🇪🇷 Eritrea3,546,421Africa
🇲🇺 Mauritius1,271,768Africa
🇩🇯 Djibouti988,000Africa
🇷🇪 Réunion895,312Africa
🇰🇲 Comoros869,601Africa
🇾🇹 Mayotte272,815Africa
🇸🇨 Seychelles98,347Africa
Total1,340,598,147

Future Outlook on the Population of China

Whether or not China’s population growth is slowing appears to be less relevant when looking at its sheer size. While India is expected to match the country’s population by 2026, China will remain one of the world’s largest economic powerhouses regardless.

It is estimated, however, that the population of China will drop below one billion people by the year 2100—bumping the nation to third place in the ranking of the world’s most populous countries. At the same time, it’s possible that China’s economic dominance may be challenged by these same demographic tailwinds as time moves forward.

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Demographics

3D Map: The World’s Largest Population Density Centers

What does population density look like on a global scale? These detailed 3D renders illustrate our biggest urban areas and highlight population trends.

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A 3D Look at the Largest Population Density Centers

It can be difficult to comprehend the true sizes of megacities, or the global spread of 8 billion people, but this series of population density maps makes the picture abundantly clear.

Created using the EU’s population density data and mapping tool Aerialod by Alasdair Rae, the 3D-rendered maps highlight demographic trends and geographic constraints.

Though they appear topographical and even resemble urban areas, the maps visualize population density in squares. The height of each bar represents the number of people living in that specific square, with the global map displaying 2km x 2km squares and subsequent maps displaying 1km x 1km squares.

Each region and country tells its own demographic story, but the largest population clusters are especially illuminating.

China vs U.S. — Clusters vs Sprawl

population density spikes around China

Click here to view the high resolution version.

Zooming into the most populated country in the world, China and its surrounding neighbors demonstrate massive clusters of urbanization.

Most people are familiar with the large density centers around Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, but the concentration in central China is surprising. The cities of Chengdu and Chonqing, in the Sichuan Basin, are part of a massive population center.

Interestingly, more than 93% of China’s population lives in the Eastern half of the country. It’s a similar story in neighboring South Korea and Taiwan, where the population is clustered along the west coasts.

population density spikes in the united states

Click here to view the high resolution version.

The U.S. also has large population clusters along the coasts, but far more sprawl compared to its Asian counterparts. Though the Boston-Washington corridor is home to over 50 million residents, major centers spread out the population across the South and the Midwest.

Clearly visible are clusters in Florida (and not exclusively focused around Miami like some might believe), Illinois, Georgia, and Texas. The population is sparse in the West as expected, but California’s Los Angeles and Bay Area metros make up for the discrepancy and are just behind New York City’s density spikes in height.

India & Southeast Asia — Massive Density in Tight Areas

population density spikes around India

Click here to view the high resolution version.

At 1.38 billion people, India’s population is just behind China’s in terms of size. However, this sizable population fits into an area just one-third of China’s total land area, with the above map demonstrating what the same amount of people looks like in a smaller region.

On one hand, you still have clear clusters, such as in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, and Bangladesh’s Dhaka. On the other, there is a finite amount of room for a massive amount of people, so those density “spikes” are more like density “peaks” with the entire country covered in high density bars.

However, we can still see geographic trends. India’s population is more densely focused in the North before fading into the Himalayas. Bangladesh is equally if not more densely populated, with the exception of the protected Sundarbans mangrove forest along the coast. And Pakistan’s population seen in the distance is clustered along the Indus River.

population density spikes in Southeast Asia

Click here to view the high resolution version.

Geographic constraints have always been the biggest deciding factor when it comes to population density, and nowhere is this more apparent than Southeast Asia.

Take Indonesia, the fourth largest country by population. Despite spanning across many islands, more than half of the country’s 269 million inhabitants are clustered on the single island of Java. The metros of Jakarta and Surabaya have experienced massive growth, but spreading that growth across oceans to entirely new islands (covered by rainforests) is a tall order.

When the distance is smaller, that cross-water growth is more likely to occur. Nearby in the Philippines, more than 100 million people have densely populated a series of islands no bigger than the state of Arizona.

Indeed, despite being one of the most populated areas in the world, each country in Southeast Asia has had its own growing problems. Some are limited by space (Singapore, Philippines), while others are limited by forests (Thailand, Vietnam).

A World of Different Density Pictures

Though the above maps cover the five most populated countries on Earth, accounting for nearly half of the world’s population, they only show a small part of the global picture.

As the full global density map at the top of the page highlights, the population patterns can accurately illustrate some geographic patterns and constraints, while others need further exploration.

For example, the map clearly gives an outline of Africa and the sparse area that makes up the Sahara Desert. At the same time, landmasses like Australia and New Zealand are almost invisible save for a few clusters along the coast.

To get a closer and more intricate picture of each country’s density map, head to Alasdair Rae’s long thread of rendered maps and start scrolling up to find yours!

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Misc

Countries with the Highest (and Lowest) Proportion of Immigrants

Here, we highlight countries that are magnets for immigration, such as UAE and Qatar, as well as nations with very few foreign born residents.

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Countries with the Highest Proportion of Immigrants

For people living in cosmopolitan urban centers, it’s easy to overestimate the prevalence of immigrants around the world.

The median proportion of foreign-born people in all countries is just over 5%. In countries with a population greater than one million, only four are majority foreign-born, and only eight surpass the one-third mark.

Here are the top 20 countries with the highest proportion of immigrants in their populations:

CountryImmigrants as a percentage of population
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates88%
🇶🇦 Qatar77%
🇰🇼 Kuwait73%
🇧🇭 Bahrain55%
🇴🇲 Oman46%
🇸🇬 Singapore43%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia39%
🇯🇴 Jordan34%
🇦🇺 Australia30%
🇨🇭 Switzerland29%
🇳🇿 New Zealand29%
🇱🇧 Lebanon25%
🇮🇱 Israel23%
🇨🇦 Canada21%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan20%
🇸🇪 Sweden20%
🇦🇹 Austria19%
🇩🇪 Germany19%
🇬🇦 Gabon19%
🇮🇪 Ireland18%

Source: UN via World Population Review. Note: Only countries with a population of greater than one million are included.

The United Arab Emirates comes out on top for the highest proportion of immigrants in its population. Impressively, the small Middle Eastern nation ranks sixth in the world for total immigrant population (8.7 million people).

Other countries on the Arabian Peninsula also rank at the top of this list. In Qatar, current host of the 2022 World Cup, 3-in-4 people are immigrants. The high proportion of foreign workers in the country also results in an extreme demographic skew—approximately 75% of the population of Qatar is male.

The one extreme outlier in the region is war-torn Yemen, where only 1.3% of the population are immigrants.

Outside the Middle East, Singapore (43%) takes top spot, followed by Australia (30%).

Spotlight on U.S. Immigration

Although the United States is outside the top 20, it still has by far the most immigrants of any other country (50 million vs. 16 million in second-place Germany).

About 15% of people in the U.S. are immigrants—numbers which are comparable to the historic high in the late 19th century. The proportion of foreign-born people in the country has been on the rise since the 1970s, and is projected to continue rising in coming decades. Around 2030, immigration is expected to surpass natural increases as a driver of population growth.

Countries with the Lowest Proportion of Immigrants

A few countries are magnets for immigration, while a great many more receive very little immigration. This can simply be due to lack of demand, or because of more extreme circumstances such as war or a failing economy. In other cases, immigration policies may limit the number of people who can migrate to a country.

Here are the top 20 countries with the lowest proportion of immigrants in their populations:

CountryImmigrants as a percentage of population
🇨🇺 Cuba0.03%
🇨🇳 China0.07%
🇻🇳 Vietnam0.08%
🇮🇩 Indonesia0.13%
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.13%
🇲🇲 Myanmar0.14%
🇭🇹 Haiti0.17%
🇰🇵 North Korea0.19%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.19%
🇵🇭 Philippines0.21%
🇲🇦 Morocco0.28%
🇮🇳 India0.35%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea0.35%
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.37%
🇸🇴 Somalia0.37%
🇪🇷 Eritrea0.39%
🇭🇳 Honduras0.40%
🇬🇹 Guatemala0.47%
🇰🇭 Cambodia0.47%
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.51%

Cuba has the lowest level of foreign-born people in its population. The Caribbean nation makes it very difficult for foreign nationals obtain permanent residency.

China comes in second last. In absolute terms, the million or so immigrants living in China may sound like a lot, but pales in comparison to the overall population of 1.4 billion.

Interestingly, Japan–which is the poster child for low immigration–isn’t on the list above. The country’s foreign-born population sits at just over 2%.

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