Los Angeles v. Changsha: Getting the Population Comparisons Wrong

Re: http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/china-ghost-cities-being-filled.html

Comment posted…

Thank you for the reference on the ghost cities fairy stories. A correction is in order, though. Changsha is nothing like twice the size of Los Angeles. This assumption comes from a misunderstanding of the difference between western terms and Chinese terms as translated into English. The term "city" is commonly used in English to denote the Chinese term "shi," which is a large region, formerly called a prefecture (and far larger than any western conception of a city). Within that region there are rural counties and urban counties (qu), the latter of which are roughly comparable to a metropolitan area. Within the urban qu is the area of continuous urban development, or the urban area. Prefectures ("shi" or city") virtually ALWAYS have large rural populations."

The error in the article comes from comparing the population of the city of Los Angeles (3.8 million) to the "city" of Changsha (7.0 million). But these are radically different concepts for which the same term (city or shi) is used. The city of Los Angeles is a municipality that represents less than one-third of the population of the Los Angeles metropolitan area or the Los Angeles urban area. The city of Changsha is a region that extends far beyond the metropolitan area or urban area of Changsha. Thus, when comparable geographical constructs are used, Los Angeles is four times the size of Changsha (metropolitan area or urban area).

Here are the data on comparable areas…

Changsha (2010 census based)

"Shi" or "city" (formerly called prefecture): 7.0 million

Metropolitan area (urban qu): 3.1 million

Urban area (continuous urbanization): 3.0 million

Central municipality: No comparable area

Los Angeles

"Shi" or "city" (formerly called prefecture): No comparable area

Metropolitan area (Los Angeles and Orange Counties): 12.8 million

Urban area (continuous urbanization): 12.2

Central municipality (City of Los Angeles): 3.8 million.

For further information:

Demographia World Urban Areas (http://demographia.com/db-worldua.pdf)

Rental Car Tour of Changsha (http://www.rentalcartours.net/rac-changsha.pdf)

Fastest growing metropolitan areas of China (http://www.newgeography.com/content/002873-chinas-top-growth-centers)

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