Biggest city you’ve never heard of

16 Mar

China has a lot of people. Don't believe me:

Every year, 8.5 million Chinese peasants move into cities. Most of their destinations are mere specks on western maps, if they appear at all. But their populations put them on a par with some of the world's megalopolises. Britain has five urban centres of more than a million people; China has ninety. A few – Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Nanjing – are well known around the world. The names of many others – Suqian, Suining, Xiantao, Xinghua, Liuan – are unfamiliar even to many Chinese. Nowhere is the staggering urbanisation of the world more evident than in Chongqing. Never heard of it? This is where the pace and scale of urbanisation is probably faster and bigger than anywhere in the world today. This is the Coketown of the early 21st century.

Set in the middle reaches of the Yangtze, this former trading centre and treaty port has long been the economic hub of western China. But after its government was given municipal control of surrounding territory the size of many countries, it has grown and grown, becoming what is now the world's biggest municipality with 31 million residents (more people than Iraq, Peru or Malaysia). The population in its metropolitan areas will double from 10 million to 20 million in the next 13 years.

Link: Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Invisible city.

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