There’s virtually no one left on earth who doesn’t realize it by now, but the 21st century belongs to China. After centuries of economic and military domination, the western nations of North America and Europe now have to settle into a new, slightly uncomfortable reality where they are no longer in the driver’s seat, at least not in the same manner as they once were.
The economic rise of China – which ironically stems from the western world outsourcing virtually the entire world's manufacturing operations to the Middle Kingdom – has made its domestic matters global ones. If things go bad in China, economically speaking, those effects will be reverberated across the entire world within days. We’re living in an era were our global economies are so inexorably linked that the traditional political boundaries drawn up post-WW2, those based on ideology and sociocultural differences, have taken a backseat to the pursuit of profit. Hey, you can knock capitalism all you want, but thus far it seems to be the only thing that keeps humans from slashing each other to pieces.
As a consequence of China’s unprecedented rise, an entire new middle-class has emerged from a nation that just 3 generations ago was mostly rural farmers. As massive factories began to open up in cities a few decades back, at the beginning of the boom, people from rural areas left their homes to go work in these factories and make a better living wage. This urbanization created cities with extremely large populations, including some of the most populous cities on Earth. As time progressed and the general economic conditions across China improved, these cities became wealthier than anyone had ever anticipated. Sure, Hong Kong’s always been rich and Macau quickly became a billionaire’s paradise – but those cities operated under special economic conditions. Few expected mainland Chinese cities to become quite as prosperous as they have. Forget New York City, London, or Paris; if you want to visit the cities where the money that runs the world rests, look no further than these ones.
10 #10 Chengdu – 89.85 billion Yuan ($14.7 billion USD)
9 #9 Hangzhou – 94.5 billion Yuan ($15.45 billion USD)
8 #8 Wuhan – 97.852 billion Yuan ($16 billion USD)
7 #7 Guangzhou – 114.05 billion Yuan ($18.6 billion USD)
6 #6 Suzhou – 133.103 billion Yuan ($21.75 billion USD)
5 #5 Chongqing – 169.29 billion Yuan ($27.66 billion USD)
4 #4 Shenzhen – 173.1 billion Yuan ($28.29 billion USD)
3 #3 Tianjin – 207.8 billion Yuan ($34 billion USD)
2 #2 Beijing – 366.11 billion Yuan ($59.88 billion USD)
1 #1 Shanghai – 410.95 billion Yuan ($67.16 billion USD)
Although it might be tempting to assume Beijing is the Chinese economy’s most important city, since it also doubles as the national capital, that would be a mistake. The specter of Shanghai looms large not only over all of China, but also over the entire world. Shanghai proper has a population of 24,000,000 (which doesn’t account for those living just outside the city) making it the most populous city in the entire world. It’s also the world’s busiest port city, and boasts an urban economy valued at an absolutely astounding 410.95 billion Yuan (approximately $67.16 billion USD). Shanghai has emerged in post-reform China as the nation’s economic leader, and its policies and practices have served as an example for China’s other rising cities since the influx of foreign investment into China began. Where Shanghai goes, the Chinese economy will follow.
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