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

Mapped: The World’s Population Density by Latitude

How much of the Earth’s population is located near the equator? This map visualizes the world’s population density by latitude.

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A map of the world population by latitude.

Mapped: The World’s Population Density by Latitude

When you think about areas with high population densities, certain regions spring to mind. This could be a populous part of Asia or a cluster of cities in North America or Europe.

Usually density comparisons are made using cities or countries, but this map from Alasdair Rae provides another perspective. This world map depicts population density by latitude, going from the densest populated coordinates in deep red to the sparsest in light blue.

Why Certain Latitudes (and Regions) Are More Densely Populated

Numerous factors affect an area’s population density. These can range from topography, or the physical terrain characteristics of the place, to more direct factors like an area’s climate, which can impact both the survivability and agricultural potential.

Political, economic, and social factors are also at play⁠—for example, there is a natural lack of livelihood opportunities in sparse areas such as the Amazon rainforest or the Himalayas.

Breaking down the population by latitude, we see the population becomes more concentrated near the equator. In particular, the 25th and 26th parallel north are the most densely populated latitude circles. Around 279 million people reside in these latitude lines, which run through large countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, the United States, Mexico, and others.

Despite their large landmasses, many of these countries do not themselves have very high population densities. Since density measures the ratio of people to physical space, countries with vast but sparse regions like China and India are less dense than imagined.

Out of the top 10 most densely populated countries in the world, only a couple can be found on the 25th and 26th parallel north⁠—Bangladesh and Bahrain. For a size comparison, Bangladesh is 1.55% the size of China, and Bahrain is only 0.01%.

The Future of Population Density Near the Equator

Looking ahead to 2100, the UN projects that the global population will rise to almost 11 billion. This would increase global population density from 59.11 people per square kilometer in 2022 to 80.82 per square kilometer in 2100.

However, the projections show that Asia will not be the biggest contributor to this growth. Instead, the most considerable jump in population is predicted for Africa, set to grow by almost 200% from almost 1.5 billion people today to 4.3 billion in 2100.

The equator runs right through the middle of Africa and crisscrosses countries like the Congo (both the Republic and DRC), Kenya, Gabon, Uganda, and Somalia.

As Africa’s population expands, this means that at latitudes near the equator, there could be even higher population densities coming. Or course, this largely depends on how the world’s fastest growing cities⁠—most of which are in Africa⁠—shape up over the coming decades.

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Demographics

The Yuxi Circle: The World’s Most Densely Populated Area

Population density varies across the globe. These maps use geographical circles to show the most densely populated areas on multiple continents.

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The Yuxi Circle: The World’s Most Densely Populated Area

The Yuxi Circle: The World’s Most Densely Populated Area

If you wanted to capture over 55% of the global population inside a circle with a 4,000km radius, which city would you place at its epicenter?

In 2013, a post appeared on Reddit marking a circular area of the globe with “more people living inside this circle than outside of it.” The circle had a radius of 4,000 km (just under 2,500 miles) and was named the Valeriepieris circle after author Ken Myers’ username.

Acknowledging that the Valeriepieris circle is not actually a circle (it was drawn on a two-dimensional map rather than a globe) and is based on data that has become outdated, mapmaker Alasdair Rae went digging and discovered what he calls The Yuxi Circle, the world’s most densely populated area.

Introducing the Yuxi Circle

Rae traced circles around 1,500 cities worldwide to find out how many people lived within a 4,000 km radius, just like the original Valeriepieris circle. He based his calculations on WorldPop data from 2020, based on a global population of 7.8 billion people.

Of the 1,500 circles that Rae made calculations for, 148 contained populations of 4 billion or more. He found many examples in Asia including in China, Myanmar (Mandalay), Laos (Vientiane), Bangladesh (Chattogram), India (Agartala), Bhutan (Thimpu), and Vietnam (Hanoi) to name a few.

But of them all, Yuxi, a city in the Yunnan province of China, has the largest population living within a 4,000 km radius: 4.32 billion.

Put another way? The circle encompasses over 55% of the world’s population, despite including desolate areas like the Taklamakan Desert, the Tibetan Plateau, Mongolia, and Southern Siberia.

Densely Populated Areas Around the Globe

Rae’s search for densely populated clusters also turned up notable circles beyond Asia. They surrounded cities like Cairo, Paris, and Mexico City.

Note: Keep in mind that the white lines on the flat maps are equidistant circles but will only look like circles when plotted on a globe.

The World’s Most Densely Populated Areas - Hanoi

Circling Hanoi yields a population of 4.27 billion (54% of the global population). It was the runner up city circle in Rae’s original search.

Populated Area Circles - Cairo

Circling Cairo yields a population of 2.29 billion. This circle reaches most of Europe while still containing populated areas of India, Pakistan, and Africa.

Populated Area Circles - Paris

Comparatively, circling Paris yields a population of 1.19 billion. This Euro-centric circle contains large tracts of water and scarcely populated islands such as Iceland and Greenland.

Populated Area Circles - Mexico City

Across the Atlantic, circling Mexico City yields a population of 0.73 billion. It’s significantly smaller than the other circles, as the total population in the Americas is concentrated in just three countries, the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil (not included in this circle).

It’s worth noting that the Valeriepieris circle also inspired other people to look at population density in different ways. In 2015, Danny Quah of the London School of Economics looked more closely at the Valeriepieris circle and was inspired to find the smallest circle with more people living inside of it than outside. He determined that a circle with a radius of 3,300 km centered near Mong Khet, Myanmar was “the world’s tightest cluster of people.”

While the Yuxi Circle contains the largest population using Rae’s approach as of early 2022, global populations are constantly changing. Who knows where the next Yuxi Circle will be?

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