Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

Most livable Chinese Cities


Recommended Posts

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

My biggest gripe with Beijing is that takes at least thirty minutes to get anywhere if you were to take public transportation, even some place that's just two miles away. If you wanted to go to some place four or miles away, which is most places because the city is spread out, it would take at least an hour. Related to that is the difficulty of being a pedestrian here. You have to constantly watch out for oncoming cars, either in front or behind, even on sidewalks because they are driving on it or parked there..

Shanghai is a much more liveable city. It's easier to get around for those without cars and is less polluted (though still more polluted than most Western cities). The food is also better and more diverse in Shanghai. In Beijing, the most common restaurants are Sichuanese, followed by Hunanese, then Dongbei, plus the many hot pot places. It's hard to find anything else unless you're willing to make that laborious trip around the city mentioned above.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think I find Beijing liveable mainly because I can usually work from home (or whereever my laptop is) and when I do need to go somewhere I can do it in the middle of the day or the evening and avoid rush hour. If I had to do any significant rush-hour commute in this city, or couldn't afford to opt out of public transport and take taxis, I'm not sure I'd last very long.

I can't say I've noticed any particular changes over the last year, but I don't go around measuring traffic flow or pollution.

Surprised by a few of the cities on that list. Never heard of Mianyang, anyone been there?


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think these rankings are good because it gives city planners a goal other than just generating raw GDP. Instead, the environment, prices, and other factors are taken into consideration.

In Beijing, the most common restaurants are Sichuanese, followed by Hunanese, then Dongbei, plus the many hot pot places.

My four most favorite Chinese types of foods! :mrgreen:

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been thinking about this lately, partly because I've just moved to a new apartment (sofa is huge :mrgreen: ) and I got given a fairly large translation to do on urban planning / public space.

There are three places near where I live that I've seen people gathering. One is a corner of the xiaoqu I used to live in, where the old men used to gather and play chess. You get a bit of shelter between the bins and the bike shed.

Second is a fairly wide sidewalk near the subway station. There's a fan dancing group meets there at the weekends.

Third is an unlit space under an overpass where you get fan dancing and ballroom dancing.

None of those spaces has been designed for public use. People are just making do with odds and ends of leftover space. I cannot think of one public space in walking distance which has been designed for people to go and meet, gather, talk, dance, whatever - not a park, not a square (does Beijing have a single square outside of Tiananmen? I can't think of any). That, for my money, is a real failing in urban design.


Link to post
Share on other sites
None of those spaces has been designed for public use. People are just making do with odds and ends of leftover space.

Interesting. I've now lived in three places in Shanghai- Xujiahui, Zhabei, and Jiading. In the first two cases, there were great public parks within a ten minute walk. Jiading also has one. In the Zhabei Park old folks used to perform opera in a pavillion. I used to sit at a nearby bench and read the paper while eavesdropping on free 沪剧. So, the public park system is certainly one thing Shanghai has going for it.

From the article below, it seems that Beijing has not incorporated "green spaces" into urban life in a very functional manner, but rather seeks to fill certain macro afforestation objectives.

A total of three large-scale green belts have taken shape from the downtown area to the outskirts of the city, leading to an obvious improvement of the capital's ecological environment, said Song.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Beijing does have some great parks, but they tend (I think) to be large and few, rather than scattered around communities. When they are available, people really do make great use of them.

I'm quite willing to be told I'm being overly negative here, it's not as if I've done a comprehensive survey or anything.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Most parks in Beijing were built for the emperors and court officials, and not for the masses. Today it seems many private condo complex try to build park-like green areas inside their walls, but there is still not much public green space. I don't know if there is a book about the urban development history of Beijing. If there is, I'd like to see it. I've heard that before the 1980s, most Beijingers, save those working with the universities, lived either within the third ring. Most of the residential development outside the third ring have been built in the rush of the last 20 years. It seems that they were designed with mostly utilitarian goals in mind, with not much thought for public spaces and amenities.

Here is something the Beijing government's plan to encourage suburbanization in Beijing. Don't they know that Beijing roads won't be able to take the automobile traffic that suburbanization would create?


According to city development plan, Beijing is to keep its urban population at 6.5 million by 2010 and 250,000 people will be moved out of old urban areas to the outskirts in the years to come.

Now Beijing is speeding up construction of 10 areas in the suburbs in an effort to attract urban inhabitants to move out.

Of the 6.5 million urban populations, 4.5 million will be living in central city and 2 million in the surrounding areas. While people living in the old urban area will be gradually moved out to lower their number to under 1.5 million by 2010 from 1990's 1.75 million.

Population History

According to the changes in population numbers by natural growth and social movement such as migration, floating population and administrative border expansion, the population of Beijing has gone through five periods as follows:

The first period, 1949-1960, was characterized as the highest growth period. The city's population was increased to 3.18 million people mainly due to the expansion of city boundaries. The total population has grown rapidly with the annual growth rate being 5.3 percent in the 11 year period, i.e. growing from 4.14 million in 1949 to 7.32 million in 1960.

The fourth period, 1979-1990, was influenced by high growth caused by population momentum and the tide of migrants flowing into the city since China¡¯s opening and reforms. The population growth rates were expressed as cyclic changes, with the yearly average increasing by 1.6 percent. About 1.83 million people were added to the Beijing population in this period.

The present period, from 1991 to date, could be characterized by low natural growth rates and large increments in population numbers. Even with a low population growth rate, with a base population of more than 10 million persons, the size of the increments in Beijing cannot be ignored.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The documents I worked on recently say that up until 1980, Beijing pretty much stopped at the second ring road and beyond that was fields, and people in Haidian would talk about 进城. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but there's no doubt the city has expanded massively.

Actually, I did Beijing a disservice earlier, as there's a strip of land by the canal near me where they've put in benches, and there's always a few people hanging out there. So don't listen to me, it ain't that bad.

I'm not sure how different this is from any other city in the world, or from any other city in China, it's just impressions based on having lived here for a few years.


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. I wonder if Kunming made the list?

2. Liveability for foreigners would include different criteria, including availability of jobs (not just in teaching English), the number of foreigners resident and the quality of Western food available. These points might bump Beijing and Shanghai much higher up the ratings for foreigners. Climate, price levels and other factors would influence foreign choices too.

Link to post
Share on other sites


Firstly, although I've never been to Mianyang (well i passed through on a train once), I do know a little bit about it. It's just north of Chengdu in Sichuan and famous for producing Changhong televisions.

see this piece from the NYtimes from last year


Secondly, just on the topic of public spaces in Beijing, although this point could be taken to include China at large. One of the things that my parents noticed when they visited me when living in Chongqing is the presence of 'playgrounds' for adults, and especially it seems for older citizens. You probably know the kind of thing I'm talking about; the multi-coloured gym equipment/ massage machines. Any way they don't exist in Australia, i'm not sure about other countries but I know that Beijing has them too. There is one just below my apartment and everynight at about 7pm it also serves to accomodate the 'ladies with fans'

Link to post
Share on other sites
Interesting. I've now lived in three places in Shanghai- Xujiahui' date=' Zhabei, and Jiading. In the first two cases, there were great public parks within a ten minute walk. Jiading also has one. In the Zhabei Park old folks used to perform opera in a pavillion. I used to sit at a nearby bench and read the paper while eavesdropping on free 沪剧. So, the public park system is certainly one thing Shanghai has going for it.


Jing'an-qu, Luwan-qu, Putuo-qu are great for convenient parks too. Zhabei-qu and Jiading (is Jiading now a district "qu" too?) used to be the more slummy districts, but a lot of development in past years.

Also organic cities (Shanghai, Paris, parts of NYC) are just so much better than grid-locked cities (Beijing, Chicago) in general haha; makes the city feel alive, unique and more integrated together.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Zhabei used to be a fairly working class qu, and certainly wasn't the type of place one thinks of when one thinks of the glitz of the Bund, Huaihai, or Gubei. But, because they extended Metro Line 1 into Zhabei, investment has increased dramatically, and, for better or for worse, they are putting in tons of malls and high rise 小区. My guess is that this will price out a lot of the migrant workers or working class Shanghaiese that live there now, and they'll have to move further out to the outskirts of the city.

Jiading actually has a lot of "villas" (别墅), in which people live in big houses and then drive in to work in the center of the city. It also has the new F1 track. I actually like Jiading itself. The old town has an ancient feel to it without being touristy. But Jiading is really far away if you want to do something in the city center.

I wonder if Kunming made the list?

Now it didn't, but I think it would make any top 10 based on laowai's criteria.

Link to post
Share on other sites
The documents I worked on recently say that up until 1980, Beijing pretty much stopped at the second ring road and beyond that was fields, and people in Haidian would talk about 进城. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but there's no doubt the city has expanded massively.
That may be true, which could partly explain why the subway, which opened in the 1970s, was built around the 2nd ring.

The 3rd ring was built in the early 1990s according to Wikipedia:



Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a good anonymously authored article about some reasons for Beijing's traffic. The author suggests two main reasons, both related to the ring system: (1) Lack of subway lines linking northeast Beijing to southwest and northwest to southeast; and (2) Too few good roads outside out of ring system, leading to an over-reliance and traffic jams on the few ring roads.



[pop=from on4/cóng]从[/pop][pop=macro/hóngguān]宏观[/pop][pop=arrangement/bùjú]布局[/pop][pop=on4/shàng]上[/pop][pop=talks/jiǎng]讲[/pop],[pop=creating/zàochéng]造成[/pop][pop=Beijing/běijīng]北京[/pop][pop=traffic/jiāotōng]交通[/pop][pop=congestion/yōngdǔ]拥堵[/pop][pop=/de]的[/pop][pop=basic cause/gēnběnyuányīn]根本原因[/pop],[pop=to be/shì]是[/pop][pop=since/yóuyú]由于[/pop][pop=urban planning/chéngshìguīhuá]城市规划[/pop][pop=department/bùmén]部门[/pop][pop=to fall into/xiànrù]陷入[/pop][pop=2/liǎng]两[/pop][pop=things/ge]个[/pop]“[pop=to miss/wù]误[/pop][pop=region/district/qū]区[/pop]”[pop=to cause/zàochéng]造成[/pop][pop=/de]的[/pop]。[pop=1st/dì yī]第一[/pop][pop=/ge]个[/pop][pop=mistake/wù]误[/pop][pop=region/district/qū]区[/pop][pop=is/shì]是[/pop],[pop=subway/dìtiě]地铁[/pop][pop=landline network/xiànwǎng]线网[/pop][pop=long-term plan/guīhuà]规划[/pop][pop=to continue/jìxù]继续[/pop][pop=localization/júxiàn]局限[/pop][pop=within/yú]于[/pop][pop=floor/dìmiàn]地面[/pop][pop=traffic/jiāotōng]交通[/pop][pop=/de]的[/pop][pop=chessboard/qípán]棋盘[/pop][pop=every bureau/géjú]格局[/pop],[pop=lacking/quēfá]缺乏[/pop][pop=northeast/dōngběi]东北[/pop][pop=southwestward/xiàngxīnán]向西南[/pop][pop=or/huò]或[/pop][pop=northwest/xīběi]西北[/pop][pop=towards the east/xiàngdōng]向东[/pop][pop=south/nán]南[/pop][pop=/de]的[/pop][pop=cross/jiāochā]交叉[/pop][pop=line/xiàn]线[/pop],[pop=falling into/xiànrù]陷入[/pop]“[pop=chessboard/qípán]棋盘[/pop][pop=to miss/wù]误[/pop][pop=region/district/qū]区[/pop]”;[pop=2nd/dì èr]第二[/pop][pop=/ge]个[/pop][pop=mistake/wù]误[/pop][pop=region/district/qū]区[/pop][pop=to be/shì]是[/pop],[pop=ring road/huánlù]环路[/pop][pop=construction/jiànshè]建设[/pop][pop=to get/jiāng]将[/pop][pop=ring road/huánlù]环路[/pop][pop=both inside and out/nèiwài]内外[/pop][pop=/de]的[/pop][pop=road network/lùwǎng]路网[/pop][pop=to cut up/fēngē]分割[/pop],[pop=only/zhǐ]只[/pop][pop=to leave behind/liúxià]留下[/pop][pop=small number/shǎoshù]少数[/pop][pop=to stand/lì]立[/pop][pop=traffic/jiāotōng]交通[/pop][pop=direction/dào]道[/pop],[pop=falling into/xiànrù]陷入[/pop]“[pop=city gate/chéngmén]城门[/pop][pop=to miss/wù]误[/pop][pop=region/district/qū]区[/pop]”。

Link to post
Share on other sites

An article about the increase in number of automobiles in Beijing.












Another article about districting and zoning in Beijing and the concern about preserving the traditional imperial architecture in the city center, an apparent dominant factor in city's urban planning.




  黄鸿翔是中国农业科学院研究员,一直十分关注北京的城市建设。他认为,“不管这些方案的可行性如何,调整北京旧城的功能看来势在必行”他说。为此,他提交了《关于调整北京市城区及近郊区行政区划的建议》提案。在黄鸿翔的心目中,北京的旧城应以居住和旅游为主,应保持“古朴、清幽”的风貌,而不能 “建成灯红酒绿的闹市”。




Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow -- I never thought this much about public space before. Of the two cities I've lived in a long time (most of my life right outside Washington, D.C. and four years in Paris) I certainly noticed a big difference when I went to Beijing this summer for just two months. As someone who appreciates the outdoors greatly, I was semi-depressed in Beijing given the lack of green public spaces to escape to. Paris has the Bois de Boulogne (huge!), Bois de Vincennes (I think that's the correct name?), Parc Monceau, Jardin de Luxembourg, Tuileries, Champs de mars... I know I'm forgetting some. There are also terrific plazas and benches just about everywhere. Washington has the national mall, Hains Point, Rockcreek, and numerous plazas and benches everywhere. I was in NYC last week, I don't think it has a huge amount of these outside of Central Park, but I've never spent much time there so I guess it's hard to compare.

A major part of my reason for not wanting live in Beijing, however, is what the article noted: air pollution. Paris and DC aren't great but they sure beat the hell out of Beijing, where I saw blue sky 4 days total out of my nearly 8 weeks there this summer. If I move back to Beijing the first thing I'm doing is getting a fancy-schmancy gym membership and leaving town every weekend for a hike, run, and/or bike ride.


Link to post
Share on other sites
numerous plazas and benches everywhere.

That's what Beijing lacks, I think. Not the vast open spaces like Tiananmen (which should be carved up into bite-sized chunks and scattered around residential areas), but small-scale, humane spaces with a fountain or a nice bit of art in the middle and benches round the side. And more pedestrianized areas.


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like to put forward Fuzhou as the most livable city in China. I was there for almost 4 years and loved it. Nice people, livable climate, just the right size (everything you need is there, and not too big), and traffic that moves quite well.

Ontop of that some great local cuisine I never saw outside Fujian. If you visit, try guobian...锅边, or their nice Haru...I think thats xia bing 虾饼 in mandarin。



Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...