A beginner’s guide to China
According to the available research, by the year 2025 it’s estimated that China will have 221 cities with over one million inhabitants and an urban population of one billion people. Most of those people are going to be living in megacities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to visit.
The capital of China, Beijing is currently the country’s second largest city (by population) with over 21 million people living here.
Beijing is China’s political, cultural, and educational centre, as well as a major transport hub for the country.
With a name that means “northern capital”, Beijing’s history and influence on this region can be traced back for thousands of years. It was in the 11th century BC that the first walled city emerged on the site where present-day Beijing stands. Beijing was a city always at the centre of the ongoing conflicts and power struggles of the competing dynasties and forces vying for control of China.
It was during the Ming Dynasty that Beijing was officially declared the capital of the unified China, and the newly constructed Forbidden City became the seat of power for the next 500 years.
Shanghai is currently the largest city by population – not only in China but the entire world – with over 24 million people living here. It’s a global financial centre and a major transport hub. Strategically located at the mouth of the Yangtze River, Shanghai has grown to become the world’s busiest container port in the world.
Shanghai began life as a small fishing village, but grew to become an important market town during the Song Dynasty (around the year 960 AD). During the Ming Dynasty, a city wall was built in 1554 to help to protect the city from raiding Japanese pirates. By the 18th century, Shanghai had become the major trading port on the lower Yangtze River, opening up to foreign trade as a result of the Opium War with the United Kingdom in 1842.
While Shanghai’s international profile suffered during the cultural revolution of the 1950s and 60s, since economic liberalisation Shanghai has once again risen to become one of the world’s economic powerhouses.
Located on the Pearl River, Guangzhou is a key transportation hub and trading port for China. With a population of over 12 million people, Guangzhou is considered to be China’s third largest city. Guangzhou’s recorded history dates back to around 206 BC when it was the capital of the Nanyue Kingdom.
As the Han Dynasty expanded its influence to the south, it annexed the Nanyue Kingdom and took control of Guangzhou. As a trading port, Guangzhou had extensive connections with the Arab world of the Middle East. European trading relationships began with the Portuguese in the early 1500s before they were expelled to Macau where they were allowed to set up a trading base.