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.
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 31 of them, the size of their local economy, and a comparably sized national economy:
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 India, 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 Italy, 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 has been pointed out that GDP figures for the Chinese cities may be GDP (PPP).
In the original source, the tables are listed as “Nominal GDP (2015)”. However, it seems based on the size of the numbers that PPP may be more accurate, and that the source mislabeled their tables.
We have inquired with the source, and will update the graphic accordingly based on the result.