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Population density in China 2017, by region

China is a vast and diverse country and population density in different regions varies greatly. In 2017, the estimated population density of the administrative area of Shanghai municipality reached about 3,814 inhabitants per square kilometer, whereas statistically only 2.8 people were living on one square kilometer in Tibet.

Population distribution in China

China's population is unevenly distributed across the country: while most people are living in the southeastern half of the country, the northwestern half – which includes the provinces and autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, and Inner Mongolia – is only sparsely populated. Even the inhabitants of a single province might be unequally distributed within its borders. This is significantly influenced by the geography of each region, and is especially the case in the Guangdong, Fujian, or Sichuan provinces due to their mountain ranges. The Chinese provinces with the largest absolute population size are Guangdong in the south, Shandong in the east and Henan in Central China.

Urbanization and city population

Urbanization is one of the main factors which have been reshaping China over the last four decades. However, when comparing the size of cities and urban population density, one has to bear in mind that data often refers to the administrative area of cities or urban units, which might be much larger than the contiguous built-up area of that city. The administrative area of Beijing municipality, for example, includes large rural districts, where only 200 inhabitants are living per square kilometer on average, while roughly 20,000 residents per square kilometer are living in the two central city districts. This is the main reason for the huge difference in population density between the four Chinese municipalities Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing shown in many population statistics.

Average population density in China in 2017, by province or region

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Release date

October 2020



Survey time period


Supplementary notes

*The population density in the four Chinese municipalities varies mainly due to the great difference in the size of the cities' administrative area. The administrative area of Beijing is roughly 2.6 times as large as that of Shanghai and includes many predominantly rural districts. The administrative area of Chongqing is even five times larger than that of Beijing.

All data refer to permanent residents.
The data refer to mainland China only and do not include Hong Kong and Macao.
The source does not provide a release date. The date given is the date of data access.

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Statistics on "Population in China"

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