Is China bigger than the USA?


Between 1960 and 2017, the global population increased from 3.0 to 7.6 billion. During the same period, the share of the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) in the world population fell from 13.4 to 6.8 percent. In the USA, the corresponding share fell from 6.2 to 4.3 percent and China's share fell from 21.7 to 18.7 percent. Even if the proportions fell, the absolute population increased between 1960 and 2017 in the EU-28 by around 105 million (plus 25.8 percent), in the USA by almost 138 million (plus 73.7 percent) and in China by around 752 million (plus 114.3 percent). According to population projections, China's population will peak in 2029 (1.44 billion) and decline steadily by 2060 (1.29 billion). The population of the EU-28 will increase to 529 million by 2045 and then decrease to 525 million by 2060. In contrast, the US population will continue to grow to 405 million by 2060.


Of the approximately 7.6 billion people who lived in the world in 2017, just under a fifth lived in China (18.7 percent or 1.41 billion people). The 28 member states of the European Union (EU) had a share of 6.8 percent of the world population, in the USA it was 4.3 percent (512 or 324 million people). According to the United Nations - Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (UN / DESA), the population of China more than doubled between 1960 and 2017 (plus 114.3 percent); in the USA it rose by almost three quarters (plus 73.7 percent) and in the EU-28 by a good quarter (25.8 percent).

Worldwide, China accounted for one sixth of the absolute population growth between 1960 and 2017; China's population increased by 752 million during this period - an average of 13.2 million people per year. According to UN / DESA calculations, China's population will peak at 1.44 billion in 2029. It will then decrease to 1.29 billion by 2060 and thus be below the 2017 level (minus 121 million or 8.6 percent). On the other hand, the population of the USA will steadily increase - also due to immigration - and will reach 405 million in 2060. Compared to 2017, this is an increase of 80 million inhabitants (24.7 percent). According to Eurostat, the population of the EU-28 will peak at 529 million in 2045 and then decline to 525 million by 2060. Accordingly, the population of the EU-28 will only be slightly higher in 2060 than in 2017 (plus 13 million or 2.6 percent).

There are differences between the EU-28, the USA and China not only with regard to the absolute population, but also with regard to the age structure: while those under 15 years of age made up 15.6 percent of the total population of the EU-28 in 2015 it was 17.7 percent in China and 19.2 percent in the United States. On the other hand, the 65-year-olds and older in the EU-28 had a share of 18.8 percent, in the USA the corresponding figure was 14.6 percent and in China it was only 9.7 percent. And while in the EU and the USA in 2015 every nineteenth and every twenty-seventh person was 80 years or older (5.3 and 3.7 percent, respectively), in China this was only the case for around every sixtieth person (1, 7 percent).

According to Eurostat, the total area of ​​the 28 states of the European Union (EU) is 4.3 million square kilometers (km²) - that is less than half the area of ​​China or the USA (9.6 and 9.8 million km², respectively). If the area is related to the population, an average of 118 inhabitants lived per square kilometer in the EU-28 in 2017; in 1960 the figure was 94 inhabitants per km². Due to the population growth, the population density in China increased even more than in the EU: It rose from 69 inhabitants per km² in 1960 to 147 inhabitants per km² in 2017. The population density in the USA increased from 19 to 33 inhabitants per km in the same period km².

Data Source

United Nations - Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017): World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision; Eurostat: Online database: Population change (08/2018), Population (01/2018); Food and Agriculture Organization, electronic files and web site: Surface area (sq. Km)

Terms, methodological notes or reading aids

More information on the topic Age structure (EU / USA / China) get here ...

The Population density corresponds to the ratio between the population of an area and the total area of ​​the area. Information on global population development and density get here ...

Information on Migration issue (worldwide) get here ...

China excluding Hong Kong and Macau.

The Population projections by the UN / DESA depend largely on the frequency of births. In this context, the UN / DESA theoretically uses the total fertility rate (TFR) as a basis, but the differences in the quality of the data for the individual countries are considerable. The information given here relates exclusively to the middle variant of the UN / DESA population projections.