5 Most Populous Cities in China

China is the most populated country in the world with more than 1.4 billion people, so it should come as no surprise that Chinese cities are also among the most populous. All five of China’s most populated cites are considered megacities — cities that are home to more than 10 million people. Here are the five most populous cities in China. Population numbers include the metropolitan area of each city, based on December 2019 estimates from World Population Review.

5. Shenzhen

Crowd of people at the Dongmen Pedestrian Street, Shenzhen, China
Credit: testing/ Shutterstock

Population: 12.1 million

Shenzhen is located in southwestern China, just north of Hong Kong. Only 40 short years ago, Shenzhen was home to 30,000 residents. It was a small customs depot between Hong Kong and the mainland of China. Since 1979, there has been a tremendous boom in industrialization, technology, and business that has caused a population explosion in the formerly small city. Today, Shenzhen is the fifth largest city in China with a population of over 12 million people — about the same as New York City and Los Angeles combined!

The city is known as the Silicon Valley of tech hardware. It’s where most of the technology used today — such as phones, tablets and PCs are manufactured. Shenzhen also has booming night life, restaurants, art and culture, and beaches that attract tourists from all over the world.

4. Guangzhou

View of Guangzhou with bridge in front at night
Credit: KeepWatch/ Shutterstock 

Population: 13 million

If you travel northwest out of Shenzhen, you’ll come to China’s fourth-most populous city: Guangzhou. Guangzhou, otherwise known as Canton, is located at the head of the Pearl River where many tributaries converge. Its location has made the city a primary commercial and trading hub for all of China.

With its importance to Chinese trade, Guangzhou has grown steadily through the years. In 2019, the population of the city hit almost 13 million people. It’s one of the most prosperous cities in the area and considered the political, scientific, educational, economic, and cultural center of the region.

3. Tianjin

Crowd gathering at site of Tianjin Ancient Culture Street Gate, Tianjin, China
Credit: aphotostory/ Shutterstock

Population: 13.4 million

Tianjin is located in northeastern China along the Yellow Sea. With its prime location on a major trade route, the city serves as a primary Chinese port and manufacturing center. Tianjin’s economy is based on heavy equipment production, chemical manufacturing, and transportation services.

With all the jobs the city offers, it’s no wonder that Tianjin is one of the most populous cities in China. Around 13.4 million people live in the metro area, and the ever-growing population shows no signs of slowing down.

2. Beijing

View over traffic on bridge in Beijing, China
Credit: ESB Professional/ Shutterstock 

Population: 20 million

The second and the third most populous cities in China are actually neighbors. Beijing borders Tianjin to the northwest. Beijing is the historical center of China and has served as the country’s capital for more than 800 years. It’s hard to find another Chinese city with as much history and cultural influence as Beijing.

Today, Beijing is the second most populous city in China with 20 million people. Because of its long history, it’s also a popular destination for tourists who want to visit some of its world-famous attractions like Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall of China, and the Forbidden City.

1. Shanghai

Busy crowd of people at Nanjing Street with advertisements in background, Shanghai, China
Credit: TonyV3112/ Shutterstock

Population: 26.3 million

Shanghai is the most populous urban area in China and, by some definitions, the largest city proper in the world. The massive city is located in eastern China at the mouths of the Yangtze and Qiantang Rivers on the coast of the East China Sea. Its location has made it an important trade hub. It was one of the first Chinese ports open to trade with the West and continues to be one of the largest and busiest seaports in the world. It’s also China’s primary manufacturing center, specializing in iron and steel production along with electronic goods like radios, watches and cameras.

Because of the fast-paced urbanization and economic growth taking place throughout China, Shanghai’s population is estimated to reach an astounding, and potentially dangerous, 50 million people by the year 2050.

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