A lot of comparisons are often made between China and the United States.
Both have different types of government, food, religious beliefs, and economies.
Another big difference between the two is the size of each country.
Many think that the United States is quite large, but they may wonder just how large it is when compared to China.
Here’s what you need to know about the size differences between China and the United States.
Is China Bigger Than The US?
No, China is not larger than the United States in terms of size.
China occupies about 3.7 million square miles.
The United States occupies about 3.8 million square miles.
The Territories that the United States also claims are part of the reason that the United States is a bit larger than China.
That said, China does have more landmass than the United States.
The country has a landmass of 3.6 million square miles while the United States has a land area of 3.5 million square miles.
That’s because a lot of the territory that the United States owns includes a lot of bodies of water or islands.
China could potentially end up being larger than the United States, however, if they were to claim some of the disputed territories that they have.
For example, they have disputed territory with India called Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin.
Arunachal Pradesh is in South Tibet while Aksai Chin is near Kashmir.
If China were to officially claim these territories, it would make the country 4% bigger than the United States.
China has also been trying to make some of the islands it owns in the South China sea more habitable.
It’s been a costly venture, but if it’s successful, it could extend its maritime reach even further.
Currently, however, it’s the United States which has a larger territory than China.
Which Country Is The Biggest?
Although the United States may be bigger than China in terms of territory size, it isn’t the biggest country in the world.
In fact, it only ranks third.
The country with the biggest size is Russia.
Russia has 17,098,250 square kilometers of territory.
In second place is Canada with 9,879,750 square kilometers of territory.
Keep in mind that while Canada has a large territory, a good portion of that is water.
Its actual land area makes Canada smaller than the United States.
Canada’s land area is 8,965,590 square kilometers.
The total land area of the United States is 9,147,420 square kilometers.
However, when considering territory entirely, Canada is larger compared to the United States’s 9,831,510 square kilometers area.
That said, it’s obvious that Russia is the largest country.
Its territory is almost double any other country.
Why Are The United States And Chinese Sizes Sometimes Disputed?
When comparing the sizes of the United States and China, you can sometimes see disputes over which is actually bigger.
That’s because it all depends on how the individual is calculating the size.
There are two main ways to compare countries by size.
There is their size according to their territories.
This includes the coastal waters that they own, too.
Then there’s the size of the landmass.
This is the size of the actual land that they own which excludes all bodies of water and coastal waters.
The two countries are close enough in size that excluding or including water can make them flip-flop in terms of who is bigger.
If you’re comparing them by territory, then the United States is larger than China.
That’s because their territory stretches pretty deep into coastal waters, which increases its size.
If you’re comparing them by landmass, then China is larger than the United States.
That’s because it has fewer bodies of water and the United States is unable to rely on its large expanse of coastal territory to increase its size.
Because of this difference, it’s common to see some experts claim that China is larger while others claim that the United States is larger.
Is China’s Population Bigger Than The United States’ Population?
Another comparison that some people make when considering size is China’s population and the United States’s population.
There’s no question that China has the largest population.
China has an estimated population of 1.44 billion people.
China’s population is actually larger than several other countries combined.
For example, it would take a combination of South America, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, excluding Russia, to have the same population as China.
The United States has an estimated population of 331 million people.
China’s population became the world’s largest in 1980 when it was the first to hit 1 billion people.
However, there were some concerns over its large population.
China decided to enact the One-Child policy which restricted families from having more than one child.
It was an attempt to slow the increase in population.
However, the government eventually realized that the policy would have devastating effects on its labor markets.
They removed the one-child policy and replaced it with a two-child policy.
However, the damage had already been done.
Fertility rates among young Chinese people have fallen.
With fewer young people around, China is going to have to contend with the eventual problems it will face in its domestic labor market.
With fewer people to work, it also means that their larger, elderly population will also be using more resources and relying on the wages that the young people earn.
Without a sizable younger population to support them, their economy could face some serious trouble.
How Did The United States Get Its Territories?
The United States is a lot larger than most people realize.
Everyone knows it has 50 states, but the country is actually a lot bigger than just that.
It also has nine uninhabited territories, one federal district which citizens know as Washington D.C., five self-governing territories, and one incorporated territory.
Considering how many territories the United States owns, you may wonder how it accumulated them all over time.
Here’s how the United States gained its territories.
1. The Revolutionary War
The evolution of the United States started with the Revolutionary War in 1778.
Colonists seeking independence from Great Britain fought against British forces looking to keep their claim on the 13 colonies they had established.
Although the American army struggled, they eventually defeated the British, and Great Britain recognized their independence.
Through that recognition, the 13 colonies which had fought against Great Britain became the first states of the country.
However, it wasn’t this land alone that the newly formed United States of America received from Britain.
The treaty they signed recognized the independence of the United States all the way to the Mississippi River.
This is where the British territory ended and French and Spanish territory began.
The treaty also resulted in Great Britain ceding Florida to Spain.
That would be important later.
After the Revolutionary War, the first shape of the United States began to take form.
2. The Louisiana Purchase
It wouldn’t be until 1803 that the United States got its next big chunk of land.
Before then, the territory belonged to France.
It included 828,000 square miles.
However, the area was becoming burdensome for France.
It wasn’t generating enough income to be a worthy investment.
At this point in time, Napoleon Bonaparte was waging war in Europe.
It wasn’t going exactly according to plan, and the French general was running low on funds.
Due to the expenses that the land was accruing and his need for more money, Bonaparte decided to sell the land to the United States.
The territory sold for an extremely cheap price of $15 million.
After the purchase, the western border of the United States expanded even further.
Although it would take time for states to form, the country was almost double its size already.
3. Adams-Onis Treaty
Spain had sent its explorers all across the Western hemisphere.
Some of them landed in Florida and set up forts and settlements.
However, their excursions in that area had never received the kind of investment that others did.
As such, their forts were ill-manned and Spain knew that if the US ever decided to invade Florida and seize it, they wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight.
Secretary of State John Quincy Adams saw an opportunity.
He met with Spanish officials and discussed a possible treaty between the two nations.
Although it took years to finalize, eventually, in 1819, the Florida Purchase took hold.
Spain signed Florida over to the United States.
Although there wasn’t an official cost associated with the treaty, the government did end up sending $5 million to claims made by American citizens against Spain.
After the Florida Purchase, the southern border of the United States stretched all the way to the ocean on the eastern side.
4. Texas Annexation
Before 1845, Texas belonged to Mexico.
Before it belonged to Mexico, it belonged to Spain.
Mexico was a Spanish-controlled territory for some time before it staged its own revolution against the country in 1821.
It won its independence from Spain and became its own country.
That meant that some of the territories that once belonged to Spain now belonged to Mexico.
Texas was one of those territories.
Only a few Spanish-Mexican settlers actually occupied Texas, however.
To keep Texas out of the hands of the United States, Mexico welcomed immigrants from America.
One of the most famous immigrants to make the journey was Stephen Austin.
He brought with him 25,000 other immigrants.
Mexico hoped that the immigrants would learn to speak Mexican and trade with Mexico.
However, the immigrants kept speaking English and traded more with the United States than they did with Mexico.
A big turning point came in 1835.
The President of Mexico at the time, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, declared himself a dictator and overthrew the constitution.
He knew that his claim would likely start rebellions in some areas.
One of those areas was Texas.
To stop the fighting before it could begin, he sent the Mexican army into Texas to disarm the people.
This became a problem in the village of Gonzales.
When the Mexican army attempted to remove a cannon, a small, Texan militia showed up and fought them off.
The Mexicans retreated with Gonzales keeping its cannon.
This small skirmish would end up lighting the fire for the Texas Revolution.
The revolution waged for several months before Mexico eventually surrendered.
The Republic of Texas formed in its wake.
In 1845, the United States annexed Texas and it entered the fold.
The United States was able to peacefully add 389,000 square miles of land that once belonged to Mexico and Spain.
Its western expansion had continued.
5. Mexican Cession
Although the United States had annexed Texas, it hadn’t become an official state yet.
That would have to wait until the brief Mexican-American War.
Tensions between the two countries grew with time.
Several boundary disputes were at the center of the tensions.
When one boundary dispute flared up in 1848, Congress decided to declare war on Mexico.
The war didn’t last long and Mexico eventually surrendered.
The two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.
In that Treaty, Texas became an official state, and the United States was able to acquire far more land that had once belonged to Mexico.
In particular, they added the land which would become California, Nevada, Utah, and some parts that would later become Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
Mexico received $15 million in the process, but
the expansion of the United States was nearly complete.
6. The Alaska Purchase
Russia found itself in a similar situation to Spain in 1867.
It had Alaska as a territory but it knew that it was only a matter of time before the United States sought to claim it as well.
Russia had just finished fighting the Crimean War and was still exhausted from the fight.
It knew that if the United States wanted to take Alaska, it had very little power to defend against them.
That’s because, like Spain, Russia had not invested in its settlements and colonies in Alaska.
Its people were not equipped to defend themselves against a full-scale war with the United States.
As such, the Russian Emperor, Alexander II, entered negotiations with the United States for a possible sale.
The conversation lasted all night.
However, on March 30th, 1867, Russia agreed to sell Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million.
It wouldn’t be until 1959 that Alaska finally became an official state.
7. The Confederate States Of America
It’s also worth mentioning that although the United States had expanded its territory significantly over the years, it also lost some territory at one point.
Due to issues considering slavery and state’s rights, many states in the south decided to secede from the United States.
They called themselves the Confederate States of America.
The states that had chosen to secede were:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
A long and bloody war between the federal government and the Confederate states was waged after their secession.
It became known as the American Civil War.
The fight became a struggle to free African American slaves and ensure their rights as citizens of the United States.
Eventually, the war ended in favor of the federal army.
The states that had seceded came back into the fold.
For a time, however, the official borders of the United States ended north of those which had seceded.
8. The Guano Islands Act
In 1856, Congress passed the Guano Islands Act.
It was a law that allowed American citizens to take possession of islands that were yet unclaimed if they had guano deposits on them.
The islands could be anywhere as long as they weren’t claimed and not under the jurisdiction of other countries.
The act further allowed the President to use the military to protect those islands and their resources from other forces.
Guano was a big resource in the 1800s because it was useful both as a fertilizer for agriculture and as a source of saltpeter for gunpowder.
This led to many American entrepreneurs seeking out islands that they could claim and start sourcing for guano.
This was the start of insular areas in US territories.
At one point, the United States had control of over 94 islands.
By 1903, 66 of those islands became official territories.
Most of these claims were eventually withdrawn after they depleted the guano.
The islands that still fall under the control of the US include:
- Baker Island
- Howland Island
- Jarvis Island
- Johnston Atoll
- Kingman Reef/Danger Rock
- Midway Atoll
- Navassa Island
- Bajo Nuevo Bank
- Serranilla Bank
- Swain Island
Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank are both in dispute with Colombia.
Swains Island is also part of American Samoa.
9. The Republic Of Hawaii
Hawaii had been a sovereign island country for some time.
In 1898, it became the Republic of Hawaii after its annexation.
A few years later, in 1900, Hawaii became the Territory of Hawaii.
It wasn’t until 1959 that Hawaii would become the official 50th state.
10. Puerto Rico
Perhaps the United States’s most famous territory is Puerto Rico.
Originally called Porto Rico, it was home to indigenous people before the Spanish arrived to colonize it.
It remained under Spain’s rule until the Spanish-American war.
When America won the war in 1898, they acquired Porto Rico.
Eventually, its name would change to Puerto Rico.
Its people officially became American citizens in 1917, but they do not have much say in Congress.
They’re mostly a self-governing state with a lot of oversight from the US federal government.
While China has a larger landmass than the United States, the many territories and coastal jurisdictions of the US ultimately make it larger than China.
That said, China does have the world’s largest population.
The path the United States took to acquire all of its land and territory is long and messy with some disputes still occurring.