5 Top Cities in China for International Students

China is popular for being a model country for innovation and economic development, but it’s also a world leader in quality education and top-ranking higher education institutions.

Recognizing the importance of educated citizens in nation-building, China has heavily invested on education. The country has one of the highest student populations in the world, with many graduates excelling in sciences, engineering, artificial intelligence and technology.

Eager to share its culture and become an international hub of talents, China welcomes foreign students every year. To get you started, here’s a list of top cities in China for international students!

China currently has 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites as of 2019.

5 Best Cities in China for Foreign Students

Taking the leap to study abroad is not an easy decision. The first step to a smooth sailing journey is to choose the best city while at university. Check out five of the most popular student cities in China.

1. Shanghai – The largest city in China

Do you want to study and live in a city where there’s a perfect mix of Chinese and western culture?

Shanghai is one of the biggest cities in China. Strategically located in the Yangtze River Delta, Shanghai is called “Pearl of the Orient” or “Paris of the East”. The city has a large population approaching 25 million in 2019.

Shanghai is the face of modern China, an architectural paradise, a major trade center in Asia and one of the most influential economic spots in the world. The city is equally known for its cultural integrity and scenic landmarks. Visit the Shanghai Museum, the Power Station of Art or the National History Museum for starters.

Shanghai is home to more than 30 universities and colleges, with many topping QS World University Rankings annually. Among the city’s most prestigious universities include Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tongji University, Shanghai University, East China University of Science and Technology and more.

2. Beijing – The political and cultural heart of China

Beijing is the capital city of China and its political command center. The city is one of the safest, most modern and busiest cities in the world. Its public transportation system is second to none.

Chinese culture and history is deeply embedded in the city streets of Beijing. In Chinese history, it was known as Peking and was the seat of imperial China. The city is home of the palatial heart of China – the Forbidden City, former home of the imperial family and one of the largest imperial palaces and well-preserved heritage sites in the world.

forbidden city, China

The Forbidden City is only one of the seven impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Beijing. Called forbidden because anyone entering needed royal permission, this is where the Imperial Palace still stands, once home to 500 years of Chinese emperors.

Beijing is the educational and administrative center of the country. There are many top-ranking universities in Beijing. This includes world-renowned universities such as Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Beijing Normal University, Beihang University and Beijing Institute of Technology are located in the city. Check out the cost of living in Beijing here.

Ancient pagoda-styled courtyard buildings of Peking University’s Langrun Garden.

3. Shenzhen – China’s Silicon Valley

Shenzhen was once a sleepy fishing village some 40 years ago, but today, it’s one of the fastest growing regions in the world and is China’s most economically competitive city. Shenzhen is called China’s Silicon Valley, being home to over 14,000 high-tech companies, including technology giants Huawei, Lenovo, DJI and Tencent.

The city embraces a diverse migrant culture with short and long term residents welcomed as “Shenzheners”. Check out the cost of living in Shenzhen here.

Shenzhen has attracted the best universities in China which includes Tsinghua University, Peking University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Moscow State University and the Southern University of Science and Technology.

These universities are building impressive campuses featuring world-class teaching facilities and internationally-educated professors, leading their graduates to work in Shenzhen’s elite industries.

The CUHK Shenzhen campus reflects both Chinese elements and Western charm, showing the concepts of “mountain, tree and courtyard”.

4. Hangzhou – Paradise on Earth

Are you someone who enjoys the great outdoors? Bask in the romantic and scenic beauty of Hangzhou and experience nature like never before! Hangzhou is one of the seven ancient capitals of China and is a highly visited tourist destination in the region. 

Hangzhou may be the smallest city on the list, but it’s big in cultural heritage, historical attractions, economic prosperity and infrastructure. It also ranks high as one of the most favored Chinese city for international students. If you want to avoid the chaos of city life, and enjoy nature while studying, Hangzhou is the best place for you.

The city houses some of the best universities in China such as Zhejiang University, which is the country’s fourth ranked university for higher education.

Zhejiang University prides itself on a culture of innovation and creativity.

5. Chengdu – A laid-back metropolis

Want to see China’s most famous creatures, the cute giant pandas? Or see the biggest building in the world? Chengdu is known for its laid-back lifestyle with the perks of a modern Chinese metropolis.

Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province in western China. Around the city, you will rarely see people in a hurry as Chengdu is popular for its slow pace of life. However, it doesn’t mean Chengdu lacks the upbeat vibe. It is big on leisure, entertainment and outdoor activities. It is also where Chinese tea culture originated.

During your free time, you can lounge around the city’s beautiful parks, visit the Sichuan Opera or enjoy a spicy hot pot with new friends.

Meet China’s national treasure, the giant pandas of Chengdu.

Located in Chengdu are some of the most reputable universities in China such as Sichuan University, Chengdu University, and the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.


Chinese universities are now accepting students for September 2021 intake. Check out Chinese universities, scholarships and available programs here.

Content crafter at China Admissions with nine years of professional writing experience. Fil-Chinese who honors my heritage every day. On a fascinating journey exploring China and tracing my ancestry. See China through my lens.
Christine Chiu

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