Comparing Populations: Chinese Provinces and Other Countries

I recently came across a webpage which compares the populations of Chinese provinces with that of other countries’ entire populations. It’s fun to mentally connect these provinces with the countries below, using population as the basis:

Chinese Province Country
Shandong Mexico
Guangdong Germany
Hunan Iran
Anhui Italy
Hubei France
Liaoning Spain
Shanxi Canada
Inner Mongolia Australia
Tianjin Sweden
Ningxia Finland

Note that the figures used come from the 1990’s. For the actual numbers, visit the source page supplied by the IIASA (a unique non-governmental, non-profit, global change research institute).


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Da Xiangchang Says: October 14, 2006 at 10:25 am

    My immediate reaction to these charts is one of sadness. It totally sucks that 1.3 billion Chinese have to be squeezed into such a confined space as China. Of course, all of this confinement no doubt was cuz 1) they didn’t colonize the Americas and Australia as the West had and 2) no birth control. I always have a fantasy that the Chinese would take over Mongolia, this big chunk of land with only 2 million people. Or even Siberia. But alas, the age of blatant imperialism is over. The Chinese lost out badly.

  2. All right, I now officially like people from Shaanxi.

  3. LOL~~ John always has creative thoughts.

  4. How about Jiangsu Province???

  5. TianjinSweden is astounding (as of 2004, it’s actually Tianjin > Sweden).

    Shanghai is a relative lightweight, coming in at the population of the Netherlands.

  6. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Hah! The first time I saw these words. LOL~
    Well, hmmm, let me guess…
    Reason #1, too short a comment.
    Reason #2, I mentioned John’s name in my previous comment.
    Reason #3, John is becoming strict with the comments.
    Reason #4, I went on the filtered list.
    Just a guess, thought it was amusing… 😛

    @big sausage, don’t be sad about the history…;-)

  7. I can’t remember who said it, maybe Huntington, but this quote has a bit of truth in it: “China is a civilization pretending to be a country.”

  8. Shanxi (山西) or Shaanxi (陕西)?

  9. Think of the bright side, we could be India!

  10. Beijing’s Haidian and Chaoyang Districts combined = New Zealand.

    DXC: Plenty of countries have a higher population density than China. Japan, UK and Bangladesh spring to mind.

  11. @John: Cool post.

    @Da Xiangchang: What the hell do you think Xizang and Xinjiang are? Granted, not exactly the georgraphical diversity of the Americas or Australia – but still… big slabs of “under”-populated dirt.

    I don’t think China’s running out of room for all its people, China is a massive place. The problem is population density in urban areas. The people in the countryside, though the bulk of the population, aren’t all crammed together in massive high rises. People follow the money.

    @Matt: That’s a fantastic quote.
    @Peng: I think Hanenosuke meant 山西 as he, like me, is Canadian.

  12. mengtaide Says: October 15, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    Well, blame Mao…

  13. Da Xiangchang Says: October 16, 2006 at 1:17 am

    Yeah, a lot of countries–including most Western nations–have higher population densities than China:

    I just find it funny that the country with the LOWEST population density in the world (Mongolia) is right above the country with the most population. It’s just so tantalizing, like a fruit waiting to be plucked, you know. (Of course, the Germans felt the same way about Russia, and it didn’t work out too well for them so . . .)

  14. I think it would be more prudent to compare population density than population size. I am certain that living in Shanxi with 213/km^2 or Shaanxi with 179/km^2 vs. Canada with 3.3/km^2 makes a huge difference.

  15. Matt, that quote can correctly be attributed to Lucian Pye.

    The purpose of which is to establish in the Western intellectual sphere the delegitimization of the present Chinese state in order to facilitate the continuance of Anglo-American hegemony.

  16. Jing,

    Everything said by Westerners is not an imperialist plot.

  17. Da Xiangchang Says: October 16, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    “China is a civilization pretending to be a country”? I’ve never heard of this quote. But like all intellectual pronouncements, it seems deep at first, but is rather stupid. I’d think the following are all civilizations pretending to be countries: Italy, Germany, Ireland, Britain, France, Russia, etc. I mean, seriously, what country is NOT a “civilization pretending to be a country”? And why–specific criteria that separates this latter group from the former? I’d say Pye would be flummoxed to come up with even three.

  18. “China is a civilization pretending to be a country.”

    Matt, could you please explain the definition of “country” you refer to here? As well, how China is pretneding to be a country in your definition?

  19. One reason why the Chinese may not have overflowed into Mongolia is because Mongolia is a living laboratory of gerbils. Did you know that all of the domesticated gerbils in the world originated from the Gobi desert (and as a side note ALL hamsters domesticated in the West descended from 2 pairs taken from Syrian desert by a U.S. scientist in the 1950’s)?

    Gerbil fur is most exquisite, especially the soft white underbelly. Fortunately, unlike the poor chinchilla, the gerbil is apparently too small to hunt for fur. However, besides the bitterly cold nights and the searing desert sun, snakes, and birds of prey, gerbils face other challenges. Mongolian kids like to shoot at them with slingshots.

    Fortunately these cuties are slender and nimble. But if the Chinese move in with earthmovers and start building, they will most certainly end up skewered onto kabobs and sold off the back of a bicycle.

  20. Matt

    Everything said by Westerners is…an imperialist plot.

    Oh believe me comrade, I know

    As the saying goes, when the only tool you have is a hammer, all your problems begin to look like nails.

    Likewise when you are like me, everything no matter how seemingly trivial, can be conceptualized as part of the collective struggle for group dominance.

  21. The population of Zhejiang province is greater than that of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand put together. Something that I remind my Commonwealth buddies of whenever they start to get uppity.

  22. @Jing: Well, at least you have a sense of humour about it. Now please step away from the Fanon and the Gramsci. 😉

    @Andy: What the hell?

  23. Hi

    was just casually skimming your site and noticed this post without paying too much attention to the intro (sorry). Anyway, I misunderstood it as a comparison between the peoples of those areas and the respective countries.

    For example, the people of Shandong are presumably eager to find work north of the border, the residents of Guangdong live for Lederhosen and Oompah bands and the people of Hubei clearly have a gallic air and a penchant for frogs’ legs. In all seriousness, could any such connections be made? Never having been to China, I haven’t a clue. However, when I do go, I’d love to find Chinese Italy!

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