Discover the 15 Most Populated Cities in China

Written by Emilio Brown
Published: September 26, 2022
© Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com
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Out of all of the countries on earth, China is the most populated, with around 1,451,644,545 living in the nation. China has a steady population, with an annual growth rate of about 0.4% within the last decade. Being the earth’s most populated region, China is home to 18.47% of the earth’s population. In this article, you will discover the 15 most populated cities in China. With hundreds of cities located in the county, let’s take a look at some of the largest.

China is also the third largest country in the world, with a total area of 3,747,877mi² (9,706,961km²). China is filled with biomes like grasslands, deserts, tundras, rocky mountains, mangrove forests, and woodlands. Along with its diverse habitats, China is home to four municipalities, two specially administered regions, 293 prefecture cities, and over 300 county-level cities. The populations of cities are always changing, but let’s take a look at some of China’s most populated.

15. Harbin – Population 5,856,000

famous harbin sophia cathedral in blue sky from square
The 2022 estimate of Harbin’s population puts it at nearly six million people.

©zhu difeng/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
5,856,000Heilongjiang ProvinceSub-provincial and Prefecture-level city

Harbin has an estimated population of around 5,856,000 people and is the capital of the Heilongjiang province. Located on the south bank of the Sungari River, Harbin is one of China’s largest cities and covers a total area of 20,490mi² (53,068km²). Harbin is most famous for its cold winters and yearly snow festivals.

14. Foshan – Population 7,257,000

Night skyline of CBD building in Nanhai District, Foshan City, Guangdong Province, China
Foshan is estimated to have a population of just over seven million.

©Lili.Q/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
7,257,000Guangdong ProvincePrefecture-level city

Foshan is located in the Guangdong province and has an estimated population of around 7,257,000 people. This city has a size of 1,486mi² (3,848km²). Foshan can be found on the western side of the Pearl River and is by other large cities like Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Macau. The city not only has protected historical sites that show China’s old architecture, like temples, but there are also modern buildings. Foshan is famous for its Chinese culture of Kung-fu ceramics and its furniture market. 

13. Dongguan – Population 7,512,000

China Dongguan Nancheng CBD night city scenery
With a population of 7.5 million, Dongguan is China’s 13th most populated city.

©HelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
7,512,000Guangdong ProvincePrefecture-level city

Dongguan has a population of around 7,512,000 people and is one of many of China’s industrial cities. On the west of this city lies the Pearl River, which creates the country’s most important economic hub with other large cities like Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. This city is 952 mi² (2465.67km²) large. A peaceful city, the landscape of Dongguan is hilly and forested. Dongguan is one of China’s leading cities in exporting and manufacturing. While the region of Dongguan has been inhabited by humans for nearly 5,000 years, this city was created in 1839. 

12. Shenyang – Population 7,528,000

Cityscape of Shenyang at night. Shenyang TV Tower and Youth Lake (Qingnian Lake). Located in Youth Park (Qingnian Park), Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, China.
The population of Shenyang is under 20,000 greater than Dongguan.

©aphotostory/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
7,528,000Guangdong ProvinceSub-provincial and Prefecture-level city

Located in the Liaoning province of China, Shenyang is the largest city in northeastern China, and in 2022, has an estimated population of 7,528,000 people. Shenyang is the capital of its province and covers an area of 4,969 mi² (12,869 km²). The name Shenyang translates to “The Yang side of the Shen River” which is in reference to its position next to China’s Hun River.

The city has a variety of attractions like the Shenyang Forest Wild Zoo, which houses animals like Siberian tigers, lions, bears, and horses. The city’s architecture has different designs from various periods in China’s lifetime. Having been established in 300 BCE, it is one of China’s most historical cities.

11. Xi’an – Population 8,538,000

Historic city wall in Xi'an, China
Xi’an is home to a lot of Chinese history.

©mapman/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
8,538,000Shaanxi ProvinceSub-provincial and Prefecture-level city

Xi’an is one of four of China’s major capitals, which also include Nanjing, Luoyang, and Beijing. This city is 1,383 mi² (3,582 km²) large. The population of Xi’an is around 8,538,000 people, and it is one of China’s fastest-growing cities. Xi’an was founded 3,000 years ago and today is the capital of the Shaanxi province. 

History of China can be found in the city, like its Terracotta Army museum, and the various buildings that showcase China’s traditional architecture. Being where the Silk Road begins, Xi’an has always been an important city for China.

10. Nanjing – Population 8,546,000

The Confucius Temple area in Nanjing, China
Nanjing is the capital of the Jiangsu province in China.

©Joshua Davenport/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
8,546,000Jiangsu ProvinceSub-provincial and Prefecture-level city

Nanjing has a population of about 8,546,000 people and is 2,547mi² (6,600km²) large. This city — founded around 2,600 years ago — is the capital of the Jiangsu province. Nanjing is famous for its mountains, rivers, and large buildings. The west and south of Nanjing are bordered by the Qinhuai River, which gives the city one of the largest inland ports in China. Nanjing is one of China’s four great capitals, and has ancient buildings and temples, along with modern architecture.

9. Wuhan – Population 8,592,000

Aerial view of Wuhan city .The yellow crane tower , located on snake hill in Wuhan, is one of the three famous towers south of yangtze river,China.
The capital of the Hubei province, Wuhan’s population is just over 8.5 million.

©sleepingpanda/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
8,592,000Hubei ProvincePrefecture-level city

Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province in China, has a population of around 8,592,000 people. Located in central China this city is the largest, and most populated in its region. Wuhan was first established in the country around 3,500 years ago and has grown to be the large 3,280 mi² (8,495 km²) city it is today. This city is located on the Jianghan Plain and attracts a variety of tourists yearly due to its culture and landscape. This area showcases China’s beauty. If you plan to visit, keep in mind that March is when the area’s cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

8. Hangzhou – Population 11,936,010

panoramic city skyline in hangzhou china
Hangzhou’s population reaches nearly 12 million people.

©THINK A/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
11,936,010Zhejiang ProvinceSub-provincial and Prefecture-level city

In east China, Hangzhou is one of the most inhabited cities, with a population of about 11,936,010 people. Hangzhou is a city famous for its history and culture, and the city is over 2,000 years old. One of China’s biggest cities, Hangzhou is around 6,505 mi² (16,847 km²) large. 

The Grand Canal is what helped this city grow to its current size. The Grand Canal connects the south and northern regions of China, starting in Beijing and ending in Hangzhou. This city gets very hot in the summer, has very cold winters, and has a subtropical monsoon climate. Hangzhou is the most populated city in the Zhejiang province and is also its capital.

7. Shenzhen – Population 12,590,000

Aerial view of landscape in Shenzhen city,China
A large number of the world’s toys, televisions, mobile phones, and AC units are made in Shenzhen.

©lzf/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
12,590,000Guangdong ProvinceSub-provincial and Prefecture-level city

The city of Shenzhen has a population of around 12,590,000 people and is located in southeast China, right next to Hong Kong. Shenzhen is a hub in China for technology, trade, and finance. The city has a size of around 792 mi²  (2,050 km²), and due to its industrial and technological feats Shenzhen is often called the “Silicon Valley of China”.

Shenzhen is one of many cities also known as the “world’s factory”, since a large portion of the world’s toys, televisions, mobile phones, and air conditioning units are made here. The port of Shenzhen is what fuels the region’s growing economy, and it is ranked as the 4th largest port in the entire world.

6. Tianjin – Population 13,396,000

Cityscape of Tianjin ferris wheel,Tianjin eyes in twilight time before night. Most Modern and popular landmark in Tianjin city.
Tianjin has a population density of 3,400 residents per square mile.

©thatreec/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
13,396,000Hebei ProvinceMunicipality

Located in northern China, the city of Tianjin is one of China’s most populated cities, with around 13,396,000 people inhabiting it in 2022. This city is 4,612 mi² (11,946 km²) large and has a population density of 3,400 residents per mile (1,300 residents per km). Tianjin was created sometime between 900 and 1300 CE. This city is one of the most important manufacturers in China and can be found in the east Hebei province. With its temperate monsoon climate, and being right next to the Hai River, some of the areas of Tianjin have a swampy landscape.

5. Guangzhou – Population 13,965,000

Zhujiang River and modern building of financial district in guangzhou china.
Guangzhou is also known as the City of Flowers.

©gyn9037/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
13,965,000Guangdong ProvinceSub-provincial and Prefecture-level city

A large city in China, Guangzhou is 2,870 mi² (7,434.4 km²). It is one of the most populated cities in China, with around 13,965,000 people inhabiting the city. Guangzhou is also called the “City of Flowers”, as it is one of the main cities in China for flower production.

Situated on the bank of the Pearl River, Guangzhou was founded in 214 BC, but was originally called Panyu. The name was changed, and Panyu was upgraded to a county-level city. The city contains one of China’s most important ports, which have helped the country trade with other nations for thousands of years.

4. Chengdu – Population 16,033,000

Wangjiang Pavilion during Spring with peach blossoms in Chengdu, Sichuan, China, overlooking the Jinjiang River with residential and office buildings in the background
Chengdu is the capital of the province of Sichuan.

©Adam Yee/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
16,033,000Sichuan ProvinceSub-provincial and Prefecture-level city

Found in southwest China, Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province. This city has a population of around 16,033,000 people and a size of 5,551 mi² (14377 km²). What Chengdu is most famous for is being home to the giant panda, as there are around 4 breeding and captivity centers in this city. 

Chengdu was first declared a city around 367 BC, with humans inhabiting this region for thousands of years. The Min and Tuo rivers are what helped this city prosper, as it allows for the irrigation of this landscape’s fertile soil. Various monuments, temples, and other architecture can be found in this city.

3. Beijing – Population 21,333,378

Beijing, China cityscape at the CBD.
Beijing is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world.

©ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
21,333,378Beijing ProvinceMunicipality

Beijing is a very populated city in China, with around 21,333,378 people living in the city. Found in Northern China, Beijing is around 3,000 years old and is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world. This city is the capital of China and is a cultural hub that showcases the country’s architecture, food, and arts. The city of Beijing has had a steady population growth of 2% in the last decade. Beijing has an area of 6,336 mi² ( 4,567km²) and is one of China’s largest cities. 

2. Shanghai – Population 28,517,000

Shanghai, China city skyline on the Huangpu River.
Shanghai’s population reaches a staggering 28 million people.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
28,517,000Shanghai ProvinceMunicipality

The city of Shanghai has an estimated population of 28,517,000 people. Shanghai means on the sea, as the city is by the Huangpu River. This city is located in eastern China and has a size of 2,448 mi² (6,341 km2). Shanghai is home to the largest port in the world, which can be found at the mouth of the Yangtze River. The gross domestic product of Shanghai is one of the highest in China and is in the trillions.

1. Chongqing – Population 31,002,000

modern panoramic skyline of chongqing,yangtze river bridge,china
Chongqing is a sprawling city of nearly 32,000 square miles.

©MyCreative/Shutterstock.com

City Population (2022 Estimate)City ProvinceCity Level
31,002,000Sichuan ProvinceMunicipality

Chongqing is one of China’s 15 most populated cities and has an estimated population of around 31,002,000 people. The city is also extremely large, with a size of 31,776 mi² (82,403 km²). While roughly the same size as South Carolina, Chongqing has more than three times the population of the state due to its high population density. A popular tourist destination, this city by the Yangtze River is one of the most populated in China.

Up Next…

Want to learn more about China? Check out these other interesting articles from the A-Z team.


The Featured Image

Shanghai, China city skyline on the Huangpu River.
© Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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Sources
  1. City Population, Available here: http://www.citypopulation.de/en/china/cities/chongqing/
  2. Statista, Available here: https://www.statista.com/statistics/992683/china-population-in-first-and-second-tier-cities-by-city/
  3. China Highlights, Available here: https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/top-large-cities.htm
  4. World O' Meters, Available here: https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/