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An Introduction to China's LARGEST Cities

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!

China's largest cities

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. China’s large cities are known as the “factory of the world”, though not all of them are "factory cities".

See how these rapidly-developing cities function. Experience China’s most-modern infrastructure. The following are China’s top 10 largest cities, all with populations over 7 million. [2013]

1. Shanghai

The skyscrapers in Shanghai

  • Location: The Yangtze Delta, Central East China
  • Urban population: 22 million
  • GDP per capita: $14k

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.

2. Beijing

The Forbidden City in Beijing

  • Location: Near the Bohai Gulf, Northeast China
  • Urban population: 19 million
  • GDP per capita: $15k

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 Forbiden City still features strongly in the core of its 6-ringroad concentric layout.

3. Guangzhou

The night view of Guangzhou

  • Location: The Pearl River Delta, Southeast China
  • Urban population: 11 million
  • GDP per capita: $19k

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.

4. Shenzhen

The night view of Shenzhen

  • Location: The Pearl River Delta, Southeast China
  • Urban population: 10 million
  • GDP per capita: $22k

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.

5. Tianjin

Tianjin Port

  • Location:On the Bohai Gulf, Northeast China
  • Urban population: 11 million
  • GDP per capita: $16k

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.

Tianjin Port to Beijing Downtown Transfer Service

There is no direct transportation between the port and Tianjin city and Beijing. The best way to go from the port to these places is to book a transfer service. We offer private transfer from the port to Beijing and Beijing Capital International Airport. The tour guide on the bus will introduce Beijing to you and give you some tips about travelling Beijing and China. Read more about Tianjin Port Transfer to Beijing & Beijing Sightseeing

6. Taipei

Taipei 101 Building

  • Location: North coast of Taiwan, Southeast China
  • Urban population: 8 million
  • GDP per capita: $50k

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.

7. Hong Kong

The night view of the skyscrapers in Hong Kong from the Victoria Peak

  • Location: The Pearl River Delta, Southeast China
  • Urban population: 7 million
  • GDP per capita: $39k

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.

Suggested itinerary: 1-Day Lantau Island and Giant Buddha Tour

7. Dongguan


  • Location: The Pearl River Delta, Southeast China
  • Urban population: 8 million
  • GDP per capita: $10k

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.

9. Hangzhou

The West Lake

  • Location: The Yangtze Delta, Central East China
  • Urban population: 7 million
  • GDP per capita: $15k

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.

Suggested itinerary: 2-Day Hangzhou Highlights & Grand Canal Heritage Tour

10. Chengdu

The giant panda in Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center

  • Location: The Sichuan Basin, West Central China
  • Urban population: 7 million
  • GDP per capita: $10k

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.

China's Large Cities — Most Anywhere in the World


China has 5 megacities (urban areas of 10 million inhabitants — see above). This compared to 3 in India, 2 in the USA, Japan, and Brazil, and 1 in 14 other countries.

China has 14 cities of over 5 million people (Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Taipei, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Nanjing, Wuhan, Shenyang, Hangzhou, and Chongqing), whereas the USA has 8, India 7, Japan and Brazil 3, and 31 other countries have 1. So China has 21% of the world's 5-million-person cities.

China has 41 cities of over 2 million people, 20% of the world total, compared with the USA's 21, India's 15, Brazil's 12, and Japan's 6.

China has 79 (16.5%) of the world's 478 largest built up areas (i.e. city and connected suburbs), compared to 55 for India, 53 for the US and 50 for the EU. China has over 100 built up areas of over 1 million people!


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).

Tour China's Largest Cities with China Highlights

guilinThe Li River, Guilin

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