Shanghai #1, Beijing #7: What Are the Happiest Cities in China?

Shanghai #1, Beijing #7: What Are the Happiest Cities in China?
Jul 29, 2015 Translated by

Editor's Note: Alipay has teamed up with a number of Chinese Internet companies to determine which Chinese cities are the happiest. The companies collected data in a number of fields including pollution levels, traffic, ease of living, and social life in a certain city. Shanghai was ranked as the happiest city in China out of 150 cities analyzed. It seems like air pollution and traffic were particularly important when ranking cities. Though the article sums up the data found neatly, the question still remains- can happiness actually be quantified?

Happiness is a difficult thing to define. We hear a lot about countries and cities being ranked using data from “happiness index reports.” So, how do we measure the “happiness index,” of cities in China?

Alipay has the answer. The tech giant recently teamed up with eight other Internet companies to issue the “Blue City Happiness Index Report.” Alipay and its partners used big data to interpret the “happiness index” for a number of Chinese cities.

Big Tech, Big Data

The eight tech companies that Alipay linked up with were Zhihu, Moji Weather, IPE, Amap, 36kr, Alitrip, and Momo. The companies each collected data from different cities in their own respective fields: smart living, questions asked and answered, air quality, entrepreneurship, transportation, travel, and social life. Online data depicting life in a certain city was used to measure the city's “happiness index.”

The eight Internet companies all happen to have logos that are blue, hence the title, “Blue City Happiness Index.”

Here are the 20 happiest cities in China:

1) Shanghai

2) Shenzhen

3) Hangzhou

4) Guangzhou

5) Wuhan

6) Ningbo

7) Beijing

8) Suzhou

7) Dongguan

10) Zhuhai

11) Jiaxing

12) Nanjing

13) Wuxi

14) Changsha

15) Quanzhou

16) Xiamen

17) Wenzhou

18) Zhoushan

19) Jinhua

20) Zhongshan

Shanghai took the number one spot because its smart living, attractiveness to tourists, and relatively modest air pollution and traffic congestion for a first-tier city.

Beijing is ranked as number seven- bad traffic and air were the biggest factors that brought Beijing down.

The five happiest cities in China are Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Wuhan. Suzhou is ranked number eight, and Nanjing is 12. Jinan comes in last at number 150. Don't move to Jinan.

The Importance of Comfort

“There are many variables in the results of the rankings because of differences in development in transportation, smart living, and differences in air quality,” said Ant Financial PR Manager Zhu Zhu. Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba, issued the “happiness index” report.

“The data used is our own and from our partners. Our partners are all leaders in their respective fields. For example, Alipay covers 45 different cities completely, so their authority is guaranteed,” said Zhu.

Ant Financial said that comfort and ease of living is most important for happiness for Chinese urbanites. Therefore factors like air quality, smart living, and amount of traffic congestion hold more weight.

Data from Zhihu (a site where users can ask and answer questions) and Momo (a social meet-up app) on the ease of making friends in a city is important but “not as important as air, traffic and convenience.”

Liveliness is another factor in a city's happiness. A city with an active Zhihu page is considered more lively. However, entrepreneurship and lots of activity on Momo and Zhihu are more like “bonus items,” when determining a city's happiness index. 

Therefore, Shenzhen, which doesn't have as much going on in terms of social life, is ranked second, because of its good air quality and convenient transportation, while Beijing is ranked seventh.

Air quality in China is much better in the south than it is in the north, especially in the southern coastal region. Out of the top 10 cities in the “Blue City Happiness Index,” eight are in the south. It goes without saying that bad air leads to an unhappy city.

Smart Cities

In terms of ease of life, Shanghai is the smartest city in China. The city has a number of smart services including government services, medical registration, utility payments, convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, and more. Now, in Shanghai, you can even use Alipay to pay for your marriage registration.

“Jiangsu Province is a pioneer in smart cities. Nanjing and Suzhou also have a number of smart living features,” said Xie Ping of Alipay's business division. Xie added that Alipay is working with cities like Suzhou to promote smart living, in a number of fields including public security, traffic management, social security, health care, and credit for businesses.

But that's all just tech. Beijing has the highest concentration of start-ups, why isn't it ranked first?

Data provided by 36kr confirms that 36% of China's start-ups and 60% of the companies that make up the “Billion Dollar Start-Up Club,” are located in Beijing. However, Beijing itself it not a smart city.

“In order to buy electricity in Beijing, you first have to buy electricity and then refill it manually using a card. A lot of people living in Beijing have had to spend a night without electricity. Smart cards have made it slightly better. Not long ago, Beijingers had to physically go to a store to buy electricity,” said Zhu. Alipay has not entered the Beijing market, even for city services like paying traffic tickets.

“Compared to Beijing, the climate for start-ups is not as developed in Shanghai. However, the quality of life and ease of smart living in Shanghai are more important to most,” said Zhu.

Source: The Paper

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Keywords: China Happiness Index Happiest Cities in China


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As stated this is a very subjective matter. I've lived in Changsha for 6 months, and I thought people are very friendly, and didn't seem unhappy at all. Whereas when I visited Shenzhen I felt a "cold" vibe, which you could translate into not being exactly happy.

Sep 20, 2015 05:59 Report Abuse



Shenzhen, representing. Now all we need is some culture...

Aug 03, 2015 12:32 Report Abuse



A couple of surprise ommissions: Nanchang, Fuzhou, Lanzhou, Hefei, Dandong - all great contenders from many aspects.

Aug 01, 2015 22:48 Report Abuse



Shanghai is happy? Take a ride on the Subway and you'll see hundreds of zombies tapping on their phones - sure doesn't look like they are happy.

Jul 31, 2015 19:03 Report Abuse



Shanghai is number 1? Huge shock to me personally! But Suzhou deserves to be on that list, it's amazing!

Jul 31, 2015 16:35 Report Abuse



happy = brainwashed

Jul 30, 2015 14:58 Report Abuse



ummmmm Wuhan at 5! Are you high? By far the most miserable depressing place iv'e been in China with miserable depressing people to go with it. And where is Chengdu? It seems the list is based how happy the authors think people should be, rather than how happy they actually are.

Jul 29, 2015 16:47 Report Abuse



I'm actually really surprised to not see Chengdu anywhere on the list. I was expecting it in top 5.

Jul 29, 2015 15:27 Report Abuse



Me too, I was also expecting to see Qingdao and Dalian on the list.

Jul 29, 2015 17:34 Report Abuse



I agree with you both on the three cities mentioned. Ive also heard Chongqing was pretty decent as well...

Jul 31, 2015 13:59 Report Abuse



Right? How are freaking Wuhan and Changsha ranked on this list and not Chengdu? Wuhan and Changsha are absolute hellholes, and Chengdu is a cool city...for China... And what makes Shanghai number one? I was there for 6 weeks, and couldn't get out fast enough! The people are the worst cell phone zombies in all of China (a prize not easily won), and have massive sticks up their rears about being better than other Chinese (nope, they are just as rude).

Aug 01, 2015 01:53 Report Abuse



Chengdu is cool, the food is super hot and so are the ladies, both physically and temperament wise. I love it. Only downsides are the remote location and the lack of sunshine.

Aug 01, 2015 18:29 Report Abuse



What about Kunming? Thought people liked it there pretty much.

Jul 29, 2015 10:50 Report Abuse



No more....local tourists from other parts of china.

Jul 29, 2015 14:05 Report Abuse



HAHAHAHA Happiest cities in a country ranking 84 globally. "On April 24, the United Nations released the 2015 'World Happiness Report. Switzerland is listed as the happiest country in the world, followed by Denmark, Norway, and Canada. China comes in at number 84."

Jul 29, 2015 08:28 Report Abuse



This report has too much western bias. Considering the incredible circumstances that chinese people have gone through to get where they are now, the happiness and satisfaction of people generally is evident everywhere.

Aug 01, 2015 22:56 Report Abuse



Unlike chinese fudged figures this survey was conducted by UN.

Aug 06, 2015 07:21 Report Abuse