35 Chinese Cities With Economies as Big as Countries

35 Chinese Cities With Economies As Big as Countries

35 Chinese Cities With Economies As Big as Countries

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Gaining perspective on China’s monstrous economy isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

With 1.4 billion people and the third-largest geographical area, the country is a vast place to begin with. Add in explosive economic growth, a market-oriented but Communist government, a longstanding and complex cultural history, and self-inflicted demographic challenges – and understanding China can be even more of a puzzle.

City by City

To truly grasp the emergence of China, one approach is to look at the impressive economic footprint made by the country’s cities.

Of course, cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong are the metro economic powerhouses that most people are familiar with. But have you heard of cities like Shijiazhuang, Wuxi, Changsha, Suzhou, Ningbo, Foshan, or Yantai?

There are literally dozens of Chinese cities that most people in Western countries have never heard of – yet they each hold millions of people and have an economic output comparable to nations.

Here’s a list of 35 of them, the size of their local economy, and a comparably sized national economy:

Rank Chinese City City GDP (2015, in billions) Comparable Country
#1 Shanghai $810 Netherlands
#2 Beijing $664 Switzerland
#3 Guangzhou $524 Argentina
#4 Shenzhen $491 Sweden
#5 Tianjin $478 Poland
#6 Suzhou $440 Belgium
#7 Chongqing $425 Thailand
#8 Hong Kong $414 Norway
#9 Wuhan $324 Israel
#10 Hangzhou $275 Chile
#11 Wuxi $270 Finland
#12 Qingdao $266 Bangladesh
#13 Changsha $246 Portugal
#14 Dalian $245 Vietnam
#15 Foshan $235 Greece
#16 Ningbo $233 Czech Republic
#17 Shenyang $230 Peru
#18 Zhengzhou $210 Romania
#19 Tangshan $191 New Zealand
#20 Yantai $184 Iraq
#21 Jinan $174 Kazakhstan
#22 Changchun $163 Hungary
#23 Fuzhou $160 Morocco
#24 Harbin $159 Ecuador
#25 Hefei $157 Sudan
#26 Shijiazhuang $156 Ukraine
#27 Xuzhou $150 Angola
#28 Changzhou $147 Slovakia
#29 Wenzhou $131 Cuba
#30 Zibo $123 Ethiopia
#31 Macau $45 Ghana


It’s also important to remember that these cities don’t exist in isolation, and are instead cogs in the wheels of larger megaregions. Such areas would be comparable to the Northeast U.S., in which New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. are all hours apart and remain largely integrated as a regional economy.

In China, there are three main megaregions worth noting:

Yangtze River Delta
With a combined GDP of $2.17 trillion, which is comparable to Italy, the Yangtze River Delta contains cities like Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wuxi, Ningbo, and Changzhou.

Pearl River Delta
With a combined GDP of $1.89 trillion, which is comparable to South Korea, the Pearl River Delta has cities like Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan, Dongguan, and Macao.

With a combined GDP of $1.14 trillion, which is comparable to Australia, this megaregion holds the two largest cities in northern China, Beijing and Tianjin. The two cities are a 30-minute bullet train ride apart.

Note: After publication, it was pointed out that GDP figures for the Chinese cities seemed to be adjusted for PPP and that our source (Brookings Institution) incorrectly had labeled them as nominal in the tables of this document. We have since updated the infographic so that everything is based on PPP, and added four new cities as well.

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