If you enjoy the happening atmosphere of big and rapidly growing cities, then China is the place to come. Feel the buzz of the urbanization rush in the fastest developing country in the history of the planet. When you travel through any mainland Chinese city remember you are walking through a giant that 30 years ago was only a fraction of the size!
Though places like Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan are not typical tourist destinations they have several "undiscovered" attractions, and lots to do. Visit the cities where your clothes and many other everyday items were made. See how these rapidly-developing cities function. Experience China’s most-modern infrastructure. See China’s newest skyscrapers and shopping malls. Become a part of the nightlife. See the future of China in the making.
The following are China’s top 10 largest cities, all with populations over 7 million. China’s large cities are known as the “factory of the world”, though not all of them are 'factory cities'.
Shanghai is the undisputed largest and wealthiest city in China. With a name synonymous with world trade, Shanghai has the largest and busiest port in terms of containers and cargo tonnage, a grand business district, two large airports (Pudong and Hongqiao), the world's fastest train (the Maglev), and a network of elevated highways.
Beijing is large primarily because it is China's capital. It is a political, educational, and cultural center, with light industries (science, technology and research) dominating over mass manufacturing.
Beijing has the world's largest airport, and an extensive, mostly new subway system, but ongoing traffic congestion issues. The ancient city still features strongly in the core of its 6-ringroad concentric layout.
Tianjin is a huge port and manufacturing center on the Bohai Gulf, with a significant history due to its key location on the Grand Canal, linking the Yangtze and the Yellow River. Only the seventh largest container port in China, it still shifts over 10 million containers a year, and acts as the shipping gateway to Beijing, only 70 km (40 mi) northwest.
Guangzhou (Canton) is a mighty manufacturing base, drawing millions from the countryside to work in its factories. Vast quantities of clothing, electronics, plastic goods, and toys are shipped from Guangzhou all over the world. A city that has sprung up recently with China's economic boom, it hosts the biannual China Import and Export Fair or Canton Fair.
Shenzhen is located in between Guangzhou and Hong Kong. It is a huge manufacturing center that has sprung up overnight. Feeding off the success of its neighbors, it is ranked fourth in China for industrial output, manufacturing higher technology products than Guangzhou in general, and with several of its own successful sunrise companies.
Dongguan is a little-known but huge manufacturing city between Guangzhou and Shenzhen, ranked fourth in China for exports. It has also grown phenomenally in the last couple of decades. It employs huge numbers of rural factory workers, producing electronic items and other hardware, like computer peripherals.
Taipei is less of a modern arrival on the world scene with its post-war rise to prosperity alongside other Asian Tiger economies. Considered a developed world city, its major industries are textiles and electronics. Taipei is the capital of Taiwan, or the Republic of China, which, while not acknowledged as independent from the Mainland, enjoys almost complete autonomy.
Chengdu is an exception among large Chinese cities. It's the only urban area of over 7 million people not in East China, near the Pacific coast. The largest city in mostly mountainous or arid West China, it is a concentration of the population of the Sichuan Basin. The pace of life is the most relaxed of China's large cities.
Though industry does play a part in Chengdu's economy, its growth is more a result of the tide of urbanization driving the rural population towards the cities in search of better paid work, than of foreign or domestic investment. With Chengdu being the lone large city in Sichuan Province people gravitate there.
Hong Kong is another Asian Tiger economic powerhouse, which has a similar standard of living to large Western cities, despite its higher population density. It is the most developed of China's cities, with the highest living cost.
Hong Kong's major industries are all tertiary (service) sector, including finance, communications, and foreign investments. It has the world's third largest container port, but unlike other Chinese ports its exports mainly come from other Chinese cities.
Hangzhou is one of the most prosperous cities in mainland China in terms of GDP per capita. It has a variety of manufacturing industry, from machinery to textiles to IT. Hangzhou has benefited almost disproportionately from the spread of wealth, development, and investment from Shanghai, only about an hour northeast.
Hangzhou has wide, clean, and orderly roads and a network of expressways. Everything seems well maintained, extending to the upkeep of its tourist attractions.
China has half of the world's top 6 city clusters (a.k.a. megalopolises or megaregions):
The other three are The Indo-Gangetic Plain (200 million), The European Backbone (90 million), and The Tokyo Region (80 million).