China had more than 660 cities by the end of 2002, of which 10 had populations of more than 4 million each in the urban area; 23, between 2 and 4 million; 138, between 1 and 2 million; 279, between 500,000 and 1 million; 171, between 200,000 and 500,000; and 39, less than 200,000.
In the course of city planning, China implements the principle of "strictly controlling the size of large cities, developing medium-sized cities rationally and developing small cities actively." Medium-sized cities with populations of less than 500,000 and small cities with populations of less than 200,000 grew rapidly since the 1980s. And the large cities with populations of over 1 million have developed satellite cities and towns in a planned and positive way.
Beijing is a municipality directly under the Central Government and the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is not only the nation's political center, but also its cultural, scientific and educational center, and a key transportation hub. Situated on the north edge of the North China Plain, it is sheltered by chains of mountains to the west, north and east. Its southeastern part is a plain. Beijing's temperate continental climate produces four clearly contrasted seasons: a short spring, rainy and humid summer, long and cold winter, and a very pleasant autumn.
Beijing emerged as a city as far back as the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 B.C.), when it was known as Ji. During the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), it was the capital of the State of Yan. Ji remained a city of strategic importance and a trade center for the north for well over a thousand years. Then, in the early 10th century, it became the secondary capital of the Liao Dynasty under the name of Yanjing. Between 1115 and 1911, it served in succession as the capital of the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, thus becoming a storehouse of Chinese culture, and leaving many historical legacies. Among these, the former Imperial Palace, the Great Wall, the site of Peking Man at Zhoukoudian, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and the Ming Tombs have been put on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
Since it became the nation's capital in 1949, especially since the 1980s, the rapid urban development of Beijing has brought multi-lane highways, tall buildings and tremendous changes to the city's appearance. While preserving its features as an ancient capital, Beijing today is truly a modern international city.
Shanghai, a municipality directly under the Central Government, is China's largest city. Halfway down China's mainland coastline where the Yangtze River empties into the sea, Shanghai's location helps make it an important comprehensive industrial base and harbor. Shanghai plays an essential role in the national economy. Major industries include metallurgy, machine-building, shipbuilding, chemicals, electronics, meters, textiles and other light industries, in addition to its highly developed commerce, banking and ocean shipping industry. The Pudong New Zone, separated from the old city by the Huangpu River, is now undergoing vigorous development and construction intended within several decades to make it on par with the world's best as a modern, multi-functional, export-oriented district. This is expected to lay the foundation for the transformation of Shanghai into an international economic, banking and trade center, and a modern international metropolis.
Another municipality directly under the Central Government, Tianjin is a major industrial and commercial city in north China. About 120 km from Beijing, Tianjin is an important port for ocean and offshore shipping, and foreign trade. Tianjin's traditional industries include iron and steel, machine-building, chemicals, electric power, textiles, construction materials, paper-making and foodstuffs, plus some emergent industries such as shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing, petroleum exploitation and processing, and the production of tractors, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, watches, TVs and cameras.
Also a municipality directly under the Central Government, Chongqing is the largest industrial and commercial center in southwest China, and a hub of land and water transportation in the upper Yangtze valley. Chongqing is a comprehensive industrial city, with advanced iron and steel, chemicals, electric power, automobile manufacturing, machine-building, shipbuilding, construction materials, textiles, foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals industries.