A Surprising Map of the World Shows Just How Big China's Population Is

There are as many people in the PRC as there are in North and South America -- and Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand -- combined.
There are, as everyone knows, a lot of people in China; around 1.35 billion of them, or roughly 20 percent of the world's population, live within the country's borders. In order to comprehend what it means for one country to have one-fifth of the world's population, this nifty map (from the indispensable @Amazing_Maps on Twitter) divides the world into five regions, each with the same population of China.



According to the map, we can see that:

  • 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.

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Matt Schiavenza is a former associate editor at The Atlantic

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