Hukou System

By Kam Wing Chan

Kam Wing Chan, professor of geography at the University of Washington, is an expert on Chinese population statistics and is a guest contributor to the Dragonbeat blog this week.

How big are Chinese cities? That depends on how you measure them.

Back in 2005, Time magazine proclaimed that Chongqing had become “the largest city not only in China but in the world”, with a population in excess of 30m.

But any Chinese citizen will tell you that Beijing and Shanghai, both with real urban populations below 15m, are larger than their supposed competitor in China’s southwest.

Common confusion over the true population size of Chongqing and other Chinese cities reflects the fact that China has highly complex and confusing urban and city statistical data.

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