How Big is China?

  • The population of China is equivalent to the population of North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Western Europe — combined.
  • The population of China is equivalent to the combined population of the former Soviet Union, plus Pakistan, Afghanistan, Finland, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary. Oh, and all of Southeast Asia, Japan, and both Koreas.
  • The population of China is equivalent to the population of Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East put together.
  • The population of China is equivalent to that of the world’s second most populous country, India, plus that of Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
These facts, based on 2010 census data, are also true:
  • If they were separate countries, five Chinese provinces — Guangdong, Shandong, Henan, Sichuan, and Jiangsu — would rank in the world’s top 20 in population.
  • 14 of China’s 34 provinces and administrative regions have a population greater than that of California, which is the most populous state in the United States.
  • In 2010, 674 million Chinese people were classified as rural — a number, though no longer growing, is still more than twice as great as the population of any other country in the world besides China and India.
  • There are over 160 cities in China with a population over one million people. In the United States, there are nine.
  • Are you familiar with the Chinese cities of Changzhou, Taizhou, and Zibo? No? Each of them has more people than Chicago does.
At various times in history, China has seen its huge population as either an asset or a liability. In the early years of his tenure, Chairman Mao Zedong encouraged Chinese women to bear many children, believing a high population would strengthen the nation — particularly in the event of a catastrophic conflict. “I’m not afraid of nuclear war,” he said in 1957, “China has a population of 600 million; even if half of them are killed, there are still 300 million left.”
Nice guy, that Mao.
Just four years after Mao’s death in 1976, the Chinese government determined the country’s population was too large and growing out of control, so they famously instituted the one-child policy — altering the country’s demographic trajectory yet again. These days, China’s problem isn’t that there are too many people or too few, but rather that there are too many boys being born for every girl, and that the population is too old.
And getting older. Hmm.

About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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