Country Digest

Largest cities in China 2016

Our list of the largest cities in China includes the largest city in the world (Shanghai), 10 cities with a population of more than ten million people (see top ten below), and 145 cities with a population more than one million people (see table below). 

On this page you will find information about the ten largest cities in China which, together, have a total population of 164 million people. That’s more than 12% of the entire population of China. If the ten biggest cities in China were a country, they would be the eighth largest country in the world.

The table at the end of this page also contains a table listing the population of each of the 200 most populous cities in China, including all 145 cities with a population of more than 1 million people.

Unless otherwise noted, population figures in this article are from China’s 2010 census.

1 – Shanghai: Population 24,100,000

Shanghai is not just the largest city in China – it is the largest city in the world. The population of Shanghai in 2015 was 24.1 million people, a slight drop from its highest ever population of 24.25 in 2014.

Population of Shanghai map

Shanghai’s strategic location at the mouth of the Yangtze River meant that the city has for centuries been a major port. It attracted the attention of European colonial powers in the 19th century, and was forced to open itself to foreign trade by the British, who effectively ran the city for much of the next century.

Today, Shanghai is the largest port city in the world and a major financial centre. The Shanghai Stock Exchange is the world’s third busiest, and the city attracts more foreign investment than any other area in the Asia-Pacific.

The total Shanghai population has grown rapidly in recent years, but much of this growth has been the result of internal migration within China. The city actually has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, and without internal migration its population would fall over time.

Click here for more information about the population of Shanghai, the largest city in the world.

2 – Beijing: Population 21,500,000

Beijing is the second largest city in China and the third largest city in the world. At the time of the 2010 census the population of Beijing’s urban area was 21,500,000 people.

Population of Beijing map

As well as being the capital city, home to China’s government, Beijing is a major business hub and is the base of many of China’s largest companies. It is also a major transport hub, home to the largest airport in the world.

Beijing is a major cultural and tourist hub, and in its ancient city you will find many beautiful palaces and temples. Sections of the famous Great Wall of China are within easy reach of Beijing, just outside of the city limits.

The city of Tianjin (number six in our list, below) sits on the coast just to the south of Beijing, acting as the capital city’s port and providing access by sea to the world outside of China.

Beijing has always been one of the largest cities in China, if not the world. According to historians, in 1775 it was the first city in the world to reach a population of more than one million people

Click here to read our detailed article on the population of Beijing.

3 – Guangzhou: Population 20,800,654

The population of Guangzhou’s urban area at the last census in 2010 was 20,800, 654 people. Within this area, the population of the city proper was 12,700,800 people.

Where is Guangzhou located in China map

This makes Guangzhou the third largest city in China, and the largest city in the province of Guangdong. Close to Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a major manufacturing city that is home to a large migrant workforce.

Guangzhou, along with Shenzhen (China’s seventh largest city), Dongguan (China’s fourteenth largest city) and a number of other smaller cities can be combined to make up the Pearl River Delta megacity. Although it has no official status as a city, with a population of more than 44 million, the Pearl River Delta city is considered by many to be the world’s largest megacity – larger even than the Tokyo megacity.

Click here to read the latest Guangzhou population updates.

4 – Chongqing: Population 18,384,000

The population of Chongqing urban area in 2010 was 18,384,000 people.

Chongqing population

When counting the Chongqing population, some people count the wider municipal (administrative) area of 30.1 million people. This is a misleading quirk of the way China divides its administrative districts, though, as much of the municipal area of Chongqing is actually rural countryside and cannot reasonably be classified as a city.

Chongqing is in central China. Its location means it is a strategically important city and, in 1890, it was the first inland city within China to be opened up to foreign traders.

Today, Chongqing is a communications and transport hub, and is one of four municipal areas directly administered by the central government in Beijing.

Click here to read a more detailed update on the population of Chongqing.

5 – Chengdu: Population 17,677,122

In 2010, the population of Chengdu was 16,722,122 people, making it the largest city in Western China.

Chengdu population map

Chengdu is one of very few large cities in the West of China. Because of its location in a relatively sparsely populated area, it has become a major regional hub – for transport, economics, government and culture.

Far away from the bustle of Eastern China, Chengdu is considered to be one of the most relaxed cities in China. It was the last major city in China to fall to the Communists in 1949.

6 – Tianjin: Population 15,469,500

Tianjin is a city in North East China, on the Bahai Gulf. The census recorded the 2010 Tianjin population at 15,469,500.

Tianjin population map

Because of its strategic importance, Tianjin is a directly controlled municipality, governed by the central government in Beijing.

It is located on the Grand Canal, which connects China’s Yellow and Yangtze rivers, and as a result is one of China’s largest ports, serving the nearby capital city of Beijing.

7 – Shenzhen: Population 12,357,938

Shenzhen is located on the border between mainland China and Hong Kong (population 7.2 million). The two cities are intertwined and, today, Shenzhen is a major financial and trading city.

Shenzhen population map

Before it was made a special economic zone in 1980, the city had a population of just 332,900 people. Since then, its population has grown spectacularly – increasing by 265% between 1980 and 1990, and by 477% between 1990 and 2000. Population growth slowed to a mere 47.8% between 2000 and 2010.

Together with Guangzhou, the third largest city in China (see earlier in this list) and Dongguan, Shenzhen is part of the Pear River Delta city.

8 – Harbin: Population 12,000,000

Harbin is the capital city of Heilongjiang province, in the far north east of China. In total, the population of Harbin in 2010 was 12,000,000 people, an increase of more than 12% over the 2000 population of 9,413,359.

Harbin population map

Harbin is classified as a sub-provincial city, and is made up of nine different metropolitan districts and two smaller cities.

Harbin is at the heart of one of China’s main agricultural regions, so businesses related to agriculture dominate.

9 – Wuhan: Population 10,670,000

Wuhan is the capital city of central Chinese province Hubei. In 2010, the population of Harbin had reached 10,670,000 people.

Wuhan population map

Modern day Wuhan was created when the city of Wuhan merged with neighbouring cities of Hankou and Hanyang.

Wuhan is a major transport hub within China, and was the capital city of Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT government during the 1920s, and China’s provisional capital in 1937 during the war with Japan.

10 – Suzhou: Population 10,349,090

Suzhou is a prefecture level city in Jiangsu province, sixty miles to the northeast of Shanghai.

Suzhou population map

The population of Suzhou’s urban area in 2010, at the time of the last census, was 10,349,090 people. The first decade of the 20th century saw population growth in Suzhou of more than 6%, making it one of China’s fastest growing cities.

Suzhou’s main industry is manufacturing and it attracts a large share of foreign investment into China. .

Table – 200 largest cities in China by population

RankCity namePopulation 2010
1Shanghai24,500,000
2Beijing21,500,000
3Guangzhou20,800,654
4Chongqing18,384,000
5Chengdu17,677,122
6Tianjin15,500,000
7Shenzhen12,357,938
8Harbin12,000,000
9Wuhan10,670,000
10Suzhou10,349,090
11Hangzhou9,018,000
12Xi'an8,627,500
13Shenyang8,255,921
14Dongguan8,220,937
15Nanjing8,216,000
16Hong Kong7,234,800
17Foshan7,197,394
18Jinan7,067,900
19Wenzhou6,642,592
20Qingdao6,188,100
21Quanzhou6,107,475
22Shantou5,346,708
23Changsha5,288,800
24Zhengzhou4,253,627
25Dalian4,087,733
26Kunming3,583,429
27Wuxi3,542,319
28Xiamen3,531,347
29Changchun3,530,115
30Ningbo3,491,597
31Nanning3,437,171
32Taiyuan3,426,522
33Hefei3,352,076
34Changzhou3,290,548
35Tangshan3,187,171
36Zhongshan3,142,300
37Xuzhou3,053,778
38Guiyang3,037,159
39†Ururmqi3,029,372
40Zibo2,980,800
41Fuzhou2,921,763
42Shijiazhuang2,861,784
43Huai'an2,633,420
44Linyi2,600,200
45Lanzhou2,492,325
46Yangzhou2,399,079
47Nanchang2,357,838
48Huizhou2,344,507
49Nantong2,273,326
50Xiangyang2,199,689
51Zaozhuang2,125,136
52Baotou2,070,801
53Haikou2,046,189
54Yiwu2,038,400
55Hohhot1,980,774
56Jilin City1,975,803
57Putian1,953,801
58Luoyang1,925,948
59Taizhou1,902,500
60Yantai1,870,600
61Nanchong1,858,875
62Jiangmen1,822,640
63Nanyang1,811,732
64Lu'an1,778,583
65Fuyang1,768,947
66Datong1,737,517
67Tai'an1,735,500
68Huainan1,666,826
69Daqing1,649,825
70Suzhou1,647,642
71Yancheng1,615,717
72Zhanjiang1,612,300
73Tengzhou1,603,700
74Jiangyin1,594,829
75Zhuhai1,562,530
76Anshan1,544,084
77Weifang1,521,600
78Changshu1,510,103
79Guigang1,493,874
80Qiqihar1,481,637
81Dengzhou1,468,061
82Cixi1,462,383
83Changde1,458,536
84Pizhou1,458,036
85Baoji1,437,802
86Suqian1,437,686
87Liuzhou1,436,599
88Taizhou1,417,567
89Yichang1,411,380
90Bozhou1,409,436
91Wenling1,366,800
92Zigong1,362,062
93Fushun1,356,987
94Mianyang1,355,331
95Heze1,346,700
96Chifeng1,333,526
97Wuhu1,307,042
98Laiwu1,298,500
99Haicheng1,293,877
100Yinchuan1,290,170
101Rugao1,267,066
102Neijiang1,251,095
103Zhangjiagang1,248,414
104Yixing1,235,476
105Fuqing1,234,838
106Yueyang1,232,133
107Xinyang1,229,959
108Liaocheng1,229,800
109Maoming1,217,715
110Jiaxing1,201,900
111Zhenjiang1,200,400
112Xining1,198,304
113Tianshui1,197,174
114Huazhou1,178,873
115Dingzhou1,165,182
116Zhuji1,157,900
117Baoding1,157,891
118Jingzhou1,154,086
119Anyang1,146,761
120Rizhao1,143,078
121Shouguang1,139,400
122Hengyang1,135,166
123Yuzhou1,131,819
124Bazhong1,126,790
125Zoucheng1,116,700
126Jining1,115,300
127Huaibei1,113,321
128Zunyi1,095,189
129Benxi1,094,294
130Jinzhou1,091,799
131Zhucheng1,086,200
132Jinhua1,077,300
133Taixing1,073,921
134Zhangqiu1,064,200
135Zhuzhou1,055,373
136Lianyungang1,049,831
137Ezhou1,048,672
138Xinxiang1,047,020
139Pingdingshan1,033,975
140Qinhuangdao1,029,670
141Linhai1,028,800
142Wuwei1,010,295
143Hezhou1,005,500
144Zaoyang1,004,741
145Xiangcheng1,003,626
146Guilin975,638
147Bengbu972,784
148Qidong972,525
149Mudanjiang965,154
150Danyang960,418
151Xiangtan959,303
152Wuchuan947,499
153Feicheng946,600
154Xianyang945,420
155Linfen944,050
156Handan941,427
157Xinyi920,610
158Weihai908,200
159Haimen907,598
160Kaifeng896,057
161Shaoxing883,800
162Jiamusi881,711
163Suihua877,682
164Langfang868,066
165Jiaozuo865,356
166Zhoushan843,000
167Yibin836,383
168Dandong798,364
169Panzhihua787,177
170Anqing780,514
171Huludao777,682
172Huangshi764,571
173Dongying756,700
174Shaoyang753,194
175Ma'anshan741,531
176Qujing740,925
177Yingkou738,128
178Binzhou709,700
179Zhangzhou705,649
180Xingtai688,876
181Fuxin686,848
182Dezhou679,600
183Yangjiang676,858
184Panjin676,464
185Beihai668,085
186Liaoyang655,738
187Puyang655,631
188Zhaoqing644,045
189Macau643,100
190Ganzhou642,653
191Yulin637,617
192Jingjiang617,277
193Jiujiang592,381
194Chuzhou562,321
195Cangzhou536,793
196Aksu535,657
197Zhoukou505,139
198Xuchang498,058
199Hegang489,232
200Nanping467,875
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