Sunday, May 18, 2008

Human scale in China

The human scale of almost anything in China is predictably shocking. I go to a city I'd never heard of -- say, Zibo -- and learn that it has about as many people as Chicago. I go to a city I have heard of and learn that estimates of its population are accurate only within a couple million. And of course we now have the staggering figures coming out from Sichuan province and its surroundings -- about 900 children trapped in one school, tens of thousands missing in another town, whole villages being swallowed up by landslides. America has never known mass tragedy on this scale -- or even on a pro-rated version of this scale. China has of course known it many times.
That's from James Fallows, who has been living in and writing about China for the Atlantic. For some perspective on the vastness of China's population and cities, check out this list of China's cities organized by population.
This impressive cityscape is of Shenzen, a port city of approximately 7 million: