China City Classifications and Income Factsheet

In this factsheet, we describe China's city tier classification system and present the corresponding average disposable income levels for a comprehensive range of Chinese cities. A breakdown of the average urban versus rural income level is also provided for each city where available.

We base our city classifications on Yicai (Chinese name: 第一财经), a financial news source similar to CNBC whose city rankings are the most widely used in China.

For an overview of China's different levels of administrative divisions, see our China Administration Factsheet.

City Tier Classification System

Chinese cities are classified as falling into a range of five to six tiers, with higher tier cities being more economically developed, politically important, and generally prosperous than lower tier cities.

First Tier Cities... exclusively include Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.

New First Tier Cities... are a new in-between tier that has emerged in recent years. New first tier cities include cities that serve as regional hubs, cities that report directly to the central government rather than to a provincial government (i.e. municipalities), as well as a number of relatively wealthy provincial capitals and other economically developed cities. Some cities fluctuate between being classified as a new first tier city and a second tier city depending on the year.

There are 15 new first tier cities based on Yicai's 2020 city classifications.

Second Tier Cities... include a significant number of China’s provincial capitals, as well as cities that are relatively economically developed but less so than new first tier cities.


There are 30 second tier cities based on Yicai's 2020 city classifications.

Third Tier Cities... include poorer provincial capitals and cities with large populations that have somewhat developed infrastructure but no economic or political significance.

There are 70 third tier cities based on Yicai's 2020 city classifications.

Fourth Tier Cities... represent cities that are still in the developing and urbanizing stage.

There are 90 fourth tier cities based on Yicai's 2020 city classifications.

Fifth Tier Cities... are the poorest cities in China.

There are 128 fifth tier cities based on Yicai's 2020 city classifications.

Average Income Data

We present below income data for a comprehensive range of Chinese cities, including all 4 first tier cities, all 15 new first-tier cities, the most well-known 20 out of 30 second tier cities, 10 representative cities out of 70 third tier cities, 7 sample cities out of 90 fourth tier cities, and 4 example cities out of 128 fifth tier cities.


All provincial capitals in mainland China are included in the table.

We exclude Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan, as these provincial-level administrative divisions are not included in the national average income statistic for mainland China.