The 2008 Global Cities Index

It’s the most rapidly urbanizing country on the planet. More than 170 mass-transit systems are slated for construction by 2025. And by 2030, the country could count more than 1 billion people among its city dwellers. So, when we talk about urbanization and the ways in which cities are growing, China can’t be ignored. The statistics are staggering: While the United States has nine cities with a million or more people, China has nearly 100. Five are featured in the index (as well as Hong Kong), with Beijing topping its Chinese neighbors, at 12th place, and Chongqing rounding out the bottom, at 59th. Their mixed performances prove that even cities that develop thanks to the heavy-handed dictates of a central government can follow their own unique paths.

Beijing (#12)

Population: 11.1 million

Population in 2025: 14.5 million

Claim to Fame: China’s cultural, educational, and political capital. Host of the 2008 Summer Olympics and now home to the world’s largest airport.

Major Industries: Government, tourism, chemicals, electronics, textiles

GDP per capita: $9,237

No. of Days to Start a Business: 37

Roadblocks to Growth: Pollution, dust storms, avoiding a post-Olympic slowdown, overcrowding.

Shanghai (#20)

Population: 15 million

Population in 2025: 19.4 million

Claim to Fame: The country’s economic capital

Major Industries: Banking, finance, fashion, electronics, shipbuilding

GDP per capita: $9,584

No. of Days to Start a Business: 35

Roadblocks to Development: Danger of a bursting economic bubble, replenishing energy supplies, a slowdown in the global economy, traffic.

Guangzhou (#52)

Population: 8.4 million

Population in 2025: 11.8 million

Claim to Fame: The largest and wealthiest city in the south. An important seaport and connection to the rest of the world.

Major Industries: Automobiles, petrochemicals, electronics, telecom, shipbuilding

GDP per capita: $9,970

No. of Days to Start a Business: 28

Roadblocks to Development: Crime, traffic, wide gaps between the rich and the poor, clashes between migrants and locals.

Shenzhen (#54)

Population: 7.2 million

Population in 2025: 10.2 million

Claim to Fame: Shenzhen has seen the most rapid growth among all China’s cities. At some points in the past 30 years, it grew at 40 percent a year.

Major Industries: IT, software, construction, food processing, medical supplies

GDP per capita: $11,445

No. of Days to Start a Business: Around 30

Roadblocks to Development: Traffic, high rates of HIV/AIDS, labor unrest.

Chongqing (#59)

Population: 6.4 million

Population in 2025: 7.3 million (2015)

Claim to Fame: Often called the "Chinese Chicago," the city is an industrial center and gateway to China’s western regions.

Major Industries: Mining, automobiles, textiles, chemicals, manufacturing

GDP per capita: $5,500

No. of Days to Start a Business: 39

Roadblocks to Development: Air pollution, potential of landslides, drought.

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