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The Urban Hierarchies of China and the United States

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Abstract

In the year 2012, China had 177 urban agglomerations (referred to as high-density built-up areas, or “shiqu” in Chinese) with populations of over 750 thousand inhabitants. These 177 areas are the commonly known major “cities” of China. Of these cities, Chongqing had the largest population numbering almost 17.7 million inhabitants. Shanghai followed at almost 13.5 million, and then Beijing at almost 12.2 million. Of special interest in this chapter is the fact that even though Chongqing has more inhabitants than Shanghai which has more inhabitants than Beijing, we will show that Beijing is the most “dominant” of the cities in China and occupies the top place in the urban system. By comparison, the United States in the year of 2012 had 69 urban agglomerations (referred to in the U.S. as metropolitan statistical areas) with populations of 750 thousand or more. The New York-Northeastern New Jersey-Long Island area has the largest population at over 18.9 million, followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana at over 12.8 million, and Chicago-Joliet-Naperville at almost 9.5 million. It turns out that these three largest metro areas in the U.S. are also the three most “dominant” of all the U.S. metro areas in the same order as the size of their populations. Our analysis will demonstrate that these giant cities usually rank at the top layer of the country’s urban system.