A ranking of 112 Chinese cities in terms of overall sustainability based on a set of social, economic, and environmental indicators.

Urbanization in China is proceeding at a rate and scale unparalleled by any other migration in recent history. China’s urban population is projected to grow by about 250 million people—more than the total population of Brazil today—by 2025. Also by 2025, 202 Chinese cities will have more than one million residents, compared with 35 such cities in all of Europe today, and 50,000 skyscrapers could be built, the equivalent of constructing New York City from scratch ten times over. If current trends continue, the proportion of China’s GDP generated by cities will rise from 80 percent to 90 percent over the same period. Indeed, China’s continued urbanization is central to meeting the country’s aggressive growth targets, with the country currently on track to triple GDP between 2010 and 2025.

China’s rapid march toward urbanization makes urban planning a priority at all levels of government. The cities we examined in detail not only had plans for every square kilometer of urban space, but also are each planning to develop entirely new city centers—each as big or bigger than the existing urban cores—to rise above acreage that was farmland just a few years ago. Whether measured by its relationship to the country’s explosive economic growth, the number of people affected, or the quantity of resources that must be marshaled, China’s urbanization represents perhaps the most significant migration of the new century.