The Best Cities to Study Abroad in China

by Dominic James Fusco

Congratulations, you’re done with the easy part! You’ve decided to study abroad in China, and clicked on an article that will help inform your decision of which city to select for your program.

Now comes the hard part. China is an absolutely massive nation, with nearly 1.4 billion citizens, is the second largest land area of any country on earth, and has has over 100 cities with a population exceeding 1 million people. Internally, it is also as remarkably diverse in terms of geography, ethnicities, and languages spoken, as anywhere else in the world. 

So understandably you have your work cut out for you if you are trying to decide the best place to study abroad in China. While this article will not claim to survey all of the options, and thus additional research may be needed, we hope it will set you on the right path by highlighting the cream of the crop. What follows are five of the best cities to study abroad in China, though there are numerous other locations you can explore too.

Shanghai cityscape

Shanghai 

Starting with the biggest. With a population quickly approaching 30 million, Shanghai is the largest city in China and its most important center of trade, finance, and commercial activity. Sitting impressively on the Yangtze River Delta leading into the Pacific Ocean, Shanghai is an architectural wonder, which also boasts the busiest container port in the whole world. Simply stated, Shanghai is kind of a big deal. 

Students who are intrigued by the face of modern China should consider study abroad programs in Shanghai as the premier option. With an Alpha+ global city rating, it is undoubtedly the anchor or China’s booming industrial sector, and also one of the most influential economic nodes on the planet. It’s not all business though; Shanghai is also world renowned for its prestigious museums, beautiful historical landmarks, and cultural integrity.

Tower Telecom, Beijing

Tower Telecom, Beijing

Beijing 

If Shanghai is China’s largest and most industrious city, then Beijing thrives no less importantly as its political command center. From the days of imperial China, when the city was known as Peking, Beijing has for centuries been the seat of Chinese governance. In fact the entire metropolis is built sprawling around the ancient Forbidden City, former home to the imperial family, which remains standing remarkably intact at the city’s center.

History breathes life into the streets of Beijing, where the new is locked in eternal struggle with the old. The city boasts an impressive number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, seven to be exact, and is even within short distance travel from the Great Wall of China. At the same time Beijing also features many skyscrapers and modern architectural wonders, such as the National Center for the Performing Arts, and has one of the most efficient subway systems in the world too.

Lake in Hangzhou

Hangzhou

Hangzhou may be known mostly for its scenic beauty, romantically settled on the southern mouth of China’s Grand Canal, but it has also been one of the most prosperous cities in China for a long time. Hangzhou’s infrastructure is exceedingly well maintained, it enjoys a very high GDP per capita, and it is home to China’s fourth ranked school of higher learning, Zhejiang University.

Despite its laid back feel, Hangzhou actually forms the core of China’s fourth largest metropolitan area, and so carries a weight of importance beyond its bevy of natural and historic attractions. One of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China, it has always been a highly influential city in the region, and therefore it has made it on our list of best cities to study abroad in China.

Chengdu night skyline

Chengdu night skyline

Chengdu

Chengdu is a bit of an anomaly on this list of best places to study abroad in China, and indeed for China itself, because of its seemingly inauspicious geographical location. As the capital of the Sichuan Province, in western China, it stands out as perhaps the most influential city in the country, which is not located near the eastern seaboard. Settled on the fertile plains of Central Asia, within easy access of some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes you will ever see, it is a very unique destination for study abroad in China. 

It is not just its location that makes Chengdu so great though. It is a highly modern city with a young pulse, is growing rapidly, and serves as one of the most important globally connected outposts in the western provinces of China. Sichuan food is also renowned as being some of the best in China; be sure to try the hot pots! 

Hong Kong Ferries

Hong Kong 

Last, but certainly not least, is Hong Kong. A British colony since its inception in the nineteenth century, Hong Kong actually only became an autonomous province of China as recently as 1997. A global city in the truest sense of the word, Hong Kong enjoys the freest economy in the world, complete with the highest number of skyscrapers to match. Throw in expansive parks and museums, great restaurants and theaters, and an exhilarating nightlife, and you have yourself a winning destination for study abroad in China.

Hong Kong has a much different feel than the rest of China, and is a tremendously fun and fascinating place to study abroad. It even has its own currency, the Hong Kong Dollar, which is the thirteenth most traded currency in the world. From offbeat marketplaces and hole-in-the wall apartments to massive megamalls and mansions on Victoria Peak, Hong Kong is one of the most diverse and distinctive cities you can find in our modern age, making it a one of a kind place to study abroad in China

None of these spark your interest? There are plenty more options for your study abroad program in China.