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15 Largest Cities in China

15 Largest Cities in China

Want to know which is the biggest city in China? Here’s a list of the largest cities in China by size and population in 2019.

You can measure this in two ways, either by the total area or total population. The biggest cities in China are measured by their total area in square kilometers, and the largest Chinese cities are measured by their total population. 

Please note that China measures the limits of a city in a different way compared to most other countries around the world, and this often include a big area outside the actual city center.

This list follows the city-tier classification by the Chinese government, which is more similar to the metropolitan areas of other global cities. 

Guangzhou

Guangzhou is the largest city in China according to their city-tier classification with a total population of 44,294,245 people. 

This Chinese city has a long history of importance, dating back all the way to the silk roads. It remains an important port city and transportation hub in China, and the metro area is also the biggest in China.

Guangzhou is located in the southern part of China, and the main language spoken is Cantonese, although Mandarin is the country’s official language.

Guangzhou

Photo: HelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock

Shanghai

Shanghai is one of the largest cities in the world with a population of 35.9 million within its metro area. It grew immensely in the 19th century as well as in recent years, making it the financial center of China.

The skyline of Shanghai has many iconic buildings, but the city also has some impressive temples and gardens. The high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai takes about 4.5 hours, covering a distance of more than 1200 km.

Shanghai is the second largest city in China

Photo: HelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock

Chongqing

Chongqing is one of the largest cities in China, and also one that is relatively unknown among foreigners. It is one of four municipalities directly under the central government in China, and it’s located in the southwestern part of the country.

Many of the 30 million people living in Chongqing are actually agricultural workers living in rural settings rather than skyscrapers in the central parts.

If you would classify city-limits like we traditionally do in Western countries, Chongqing would have a population of about 7-8 million people, which of course still makes it a heavily populated city.

Chongqing

Photo: 4045 / Shutterstock.com

Beijing

Beijing is the capital of China and is one of the biggest Chinese cities in terms of size and population. Beijing covers an area of 16,808 km² and is home to more than 22.5 million people. 

Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Beijing include the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China. 

Beijing is one of the biggest cities in china

Photo: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Hangzhou

Hangzhou is located in the Zhejiang province and has a population of 21,102,000 residents, making it the 5th largest city in China. From here, you can reach Shanghai in just 45 minutes to 96 minutes depending on the train.

Hangzhou is especially famous for its West Lake, which has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It’s also renowned as a tech-hub and the city where Alibaba was founded.

Hangzhou

Photo: zhu difeng/Shutterstock

Wuhan

Wuhan has a population of 19,780,644 and is located in the Hubei province. Just like many other Chinese cities, there is ancient history to be found in Wuhan, dating back some 3500 years.

It was the place where the Qing dynasty’s downfall began after the Wuchang uprising. Today, it stands for modern industrial change after decades of being one of the most prominent manufacturing cities.

Wuhan

e Photo: HelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock

Chengdu

Internationally, Chengdu has become known as the Panda capital thanks to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, which aims to save the decline of Giant Pandas.

However, Chengdu is also one of the largest cities in China with a population of more than 18 million people. It’s located in the Chinese province of Sichuan and has become one of the major economic and commercial centers in Western China. 

Chengdu

Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Tianjin

Tianjin is one of the four municipalities under the direct administration of the central government. The city is located in northern China and has a population of more than 16 million people. 

It has been a major seaport for centuries, and in recent years it has recorded the highest GDP per capita in the country. The Yujiapu Financial District is often compared to Manhattan in the U.S.

Tianjin

Photo: KeepWatch/Shutterstock

Xi’an

Xi’an is located in the Shaanxi province in northwest China. It’s one of the oldest cities in China where settlements date back to at least 500,000 years B.C.

It was also the cultural and political center of China in the 11th century BC under the Zhou dynasty. In modern times, it remains one of the largest cities in China with a population of 13,569,700 residents. 

Xi’an is also famous for the Terracotta Army, which depicts the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.

Xi'an

Photo: chinasong/Shutterstock

Jinan

Jinan is located in the Shandong province in the eastern part of the country. The city is home to more than 13 million people, and is especially famous for its large number of artesian springs.

Jinan

Photo: allen ge/Shutterstock

Shenzen

Shenzen has quickly emerged as a trade center and since 1980 it’s one of the special economic zones. The population of Shenzen is estimated to be more than 12,9 million, and in recent years it has grown quickly due to an influx of part-time residents and migrants.

It’s located right next to the border of Hong Kong and was ranked as 14th in the Global Financial Center index in 2019.

Shenzen

Photo: Cardaf/Shutterstock

Nanjing

Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu province and has a population of 12,652,000 resident. In history, Nanjing has served as the capital under various Chinese dynasties and has remained an important center of culture for many centuries.

The city also has a good reputation when it comes to education and there are several renowned universities in Nanjing.

Nanjing

Photo: HelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock

Shenyang

Shenyang is located in the province of Liaoning and has a population of 12,263,612. It’s an important industrial center which has continued to grow since the 1930s.

Shenyang

Photo: aphotostory/Shutterstock

Harbin

Harbin is internationally famous for its snow and ice sculpture festival, but Harbin is also one of the largest cities in China with a population of about 12 million people. 

It’s located in the Heilongjiang province and is infamous for its ice-cold winters. Harbin has grown exponentially since the introduction of the Chinese Eastern Railway, and it has an important role in Sino-Russian trade.

Harbin

Photo: aphotostory/Shutterstock

Shantou

Last but not least, Shantou, located in the Guangdong province and home to 11,630,447 people. 

Shantou

Photo: HelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock

Most populated cities in China

Rank City Population
1 Guangzhou 44,294,245
2 Shanghai 35,965,403
3 Chongqing 25,165,500
4 Beijing 22,500,000
5 Hangzhou 21,102,000
6 Wuhan 19,780,644
7 Chengdu 18,000,000
8 Tianjin 16,000,000
9 Xi’an 13,569,700
10 Jinan 13,000,000
11 Shenzhen 12,905,000
12 Nanjing 12,652,000
13 Shenyang 12,263,612
14 Harbin 12,000,000
15 Shantou 11,630,447

More about the biggest cities in China

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the country has seen a huge urbanizing trend where some of the largest cities in China have emerged into megacities with more than 20 million residents.

It has been a growing trend for decades, but reports from recent years show that some of the biggest Chinese cities are actually shrinking due to a decline in population as well as economic activity. 

While urban decline is a fact in some regions, there are also plenty of Chinese cities that are growing rapidly, such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing. The next census in 2020 will probably shed some light on these reports from experts. 

More about the biggest cities in China

Photo: fuyu liu/Shutterstock

What are the 5 most populated cities in China?

Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hangzhou are the 5 most populated cities in China. They are home to slightly more than 10% of the country’s population.

What are the main cities in China?

Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Tianjin are the major cities in China. However, there are many cities in China which has a population of more than 10 million people.

What is the largest city in China?

Guangzhou is the largest city in China in 2019 with a total population of 44,294,245.

Most populated city in China

Photo: VictorN/Shutterstock


How many of the largest cities in China did you know about? Leave a comment below!

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