Smallville, China

A spectacular, if botched demolition in Liuzhou, caught my attention on several grounds. First the awesome image here of what was briefly a leaning tower to make that of Pisa look stable.

But two other thoughts occurred. First, this is no clearing of slums, or destruction of an ancient residential quarter. I’d guess the building being demolished was no more than 20-25 years old. I find this a telling incident in the development of China as a leading industrial country.

Destroying a recent structure to put up something more useful is not something one does when money is tight, or investment prospects are uncertain. It may be a case of Parkinson’s Law concerning new buildings, but I suspect not.

The second is that this story is a reminder that outside the tourist destinations and familiar names of Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, perhaps Nanjing and Guangzhou, there is a huge country. Here’s a list of Chinese cities with a population estimated at over 2.5 million inhabitants:

[taken from Wing Chan “Misconceptions and Complexities in the Study of China’s Cities: Definitions, Statistics, and Implications,” July/August 2007 issue of Eurasian Geography and Economics, which was cited here.

Shanghai 13.46 million
Beijing 9.88 million
Guangzhou 7.55 million
Wuhan 6.79 million
Tianjin 6.76 million
Shenzhen 6.48 million
Chongqing 6.17 million
Shenyang 4.6 million
Chengdu 3.96 million
Dongguan 3.87 million
Xi’an 3.76 million
Nanjing 3.51 million
Harbin 3.46 million
Dalian 2.87 million
Changchun 2.75 million
Qingdao 2.72 million
Kunming 2.64 million
Jinan 2.64 million
Taiyuan 2.54 million
Zhengzhou 2.5 million

To put this in context, here’s the equivalent table for the European Union [adapted from national data here].

London 7.56 million
Berlin 3.43 million
Madrid 3.21 million
Rome 2.73 million
Paris 2.20 million

Anyone wondering how long China will pretend to pay lip service to Western political correctness may do well to ponder where current demographic and economic trends are taking us.

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3 Responses to “Smallville, China”

  1. Patrick Crozier Says:

    Paris only 2.2m, eh? That the Cité isn’t it? But I think if you go out a bit further you get up to 8m.

    But, you know, on the China point – point taken.

  2. Antoine Clarke Says:

    Yes, the problem with urban population figures is that jurisdictions tend not to move with the actual agglomeration boundaries.

    In the case of Paris, the area inside the Boulevard Périphérique is the limit I used, as this is both the administrative boundary and the site of the last walls of the city. Eight million probably covers what used to be called the Département de la Seine (before the creation of a separate Paris département and the five new ones carved mostly out of Seine et Oise (what’s left is now called Yvelines) and Seine: Essone, Hauts de Seine, St Denis, Val de Marne and Val d’Oise. But these include countryside.

    The Cité is actually just the island on which Notre Dame sits and does not include either the Rive Gauche or the Rive Droite /Le Marais. Paris actually extended beyond La Cité in medieval times.

    Some of the boulevards are roads that either circled the fortifications or were built on the site of pulled down fortifications. For example the Boulevard des Batignolles, that I once lived near, was the city limit in the early part of the XIXth century (the Place de Clichy at the eastern end of it has a monument to the stand made by the Paris militia [a real “Dad’s Army”] against the combined Prussian and Russian army [including the Cossacks] in 1814, I believe the first successful foreign occupation of the city since the Hundred Years War).

  3. SKYSCRAPERS – The Norlonto Review Says:

    […] Incheon, Pusan, Tianjin, and Wuhan, to only name some of the first 25 listed. It reminds me of this list, of Chinese and European cities with over 2.5 million inhabitants. share: […]

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