6 Chinese Cities That Are Bigger Than NYC

These Chinese cities are bigger than NYC – and you've never heard of them

When you think of huge world cities, New York City is probably the first one that comes to mind, particularly if you're American. From the sparkly Manhattan skyline, to imagines of taxi cabs and pedestrians crowding narrow streets and sidewalks, few cities have come to exemplify modern urbanism more than NYC.

Well, if by "modern" you mean "20th century" – China tends to take the cake when it comes to huge urban populations in the year 2017. In fact, excluding well-known cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, China is home to half a dozen cities with populations larger than New York*. How many of them do you know?

*Official NYC population as of November 2016: 8.538 million. Source: NYC.gov

  • 01 of 06


    Guangzhou Skyline
    ••• Guangzhou's impressive skyline. Yi Zhang via Flickr (Creative Commons)

     You might not ever have heard the name Guangzhou – and you probably don't know how to pronounce it – but this city of 11 million is growing at breakneck speeds. 

    Guangzhou, whose name is pronounced "gwang-jo," is a major business center and the hub of China Southern Airlines, which is growing into one of the world's largest airlines. Formerly known as Canton, Guangzhou is part of the Pearl River Delta agglomeration, which includes Hong Kong and Shenzhen (more on that one later!) and is home to nearly 50 million people - about the same as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston metro areas combined.

  • 02 of 06


    ••• The Chengdu area is home not only to millions of people but also, to some of China's last pandas. Robert Schrader

    Don't let its location in China's misty, sleepy Sichuan province fool you: Chengdu is a huge city! Specifically, more than 9.2 million people call Chengdu home, to say nothing of the pandas who live in a reserve on the city's periphery. Chengdu is also famous for being the hub of spicy Sichuan cuisine, so if you go, be prepared to sweat at the dinner table.

  • 03 of 06


    ••• Shenzhen at sunset. Jaymar Alvaran via Creative Commons

    It's hard to believe walking the streets of Shenzhen these days, with its more than 10.3 million people, but this bustling megacity was a small fishing village back in the 1970s. That all changed when it was designated as one of China's special economic zones, which caused it to rapidly develop into one of the country's largest cities, one right down the river from Guangzhou—and right across a very narrow expanse of sea from Hong Kong—no less.

  • 04 of 06


    ••• European-looking historical buildings in front of the Tianjin skyline. A. Gabriel via Flickr (Creative Commons)

    Tianjin is less than 30 minutes by train from Beijing, but you might feel like you're in a different world entirely as you step onto its streets. Home to more than 11 million people, Tianjin's city center blends modern Chinese skyscrapers with colonial French and British architecture from the 19th and 20th centuries, giving the city a decidedly cosmopolitan feel. In spite of its close proximity to the capital, Tianjian has warded off a major influx of tourists, which means it's also a treat to explore, provided you've got enough basic Mandrian skills to get by.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06


    ••• A beautiful sunset over the Wuhan skyline. Andrea Rapisarda via Flickr (Creative Commons)

    By some accounts, Wuhan has existed as a city for more than 3,000 years, with its exquisite Yellow Crane Tower dating back to approximately the year 223 BC. These days, more than 9.78 million live in the city of Wuhan, whose location on the Yangtze River in south-central China has kept its treasures hidden from much of the world outside China. For example Wudang Shan, one of the holiest of China's Taoist mountains.

    As if you needed further evidence of Wuhan's huge size, it now enjoys nonstop service to San Francisco three times per week on China Southern Airlines.

  • 06 of 06


    ••• The Chongqing skyline over the Yangtze River. Shawn DeGroot via Flickr (Creative Commons)

    Located nearly 500 miles west down the Yangtze from Wuhan, Chongqing is another massive Chinese city you've probably never heard of. Just how massive Chongqing is, however, remains a matter of debate. While some estimate that as many as 29 million people call the city home, a substantial number of these people are migrant workers, which has led to the local government releasing an official population number of just 7.5 million, which is technically less than New York City. 

    Then again, the other impressive feature of Chongqing is how quickly its population has grown: It was home to just over two million people in 1990, for example, which means the population of Chongqing has at least tripled in the past three decades. Likewise, while it's now one of the word's largest urban areas, many residents maintain the decidedly rural sensibility they once had, leading to the nickname of the city as the "world's largest village."