Have you ever wondered how similar or different two countries are? The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. It weighs equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The methodology is exactly the same for each country. The research combines 1,000 different data points to arrive at the conclusions.
Top 10 Countries Most Similar to China
China is an East Asian country. There are very few countries that are similar to it. The top five countries most similar to China all border the Pacific Ocean. Although the people in these countries are not especially religious, their cultures were influenced by Mahayana Buddhism. The top five countries all used Chinese characters in the past, however Korea later developed its own system, while Vietnam adopted the Latin alphabet.
- Taiwan split off from China due to civil war in the 1940s. In fact, the country’s official name is still the Republic of China. Its people are Chinese in ethnicity and in general they share the same culture as well. The biggest difference is their governments. While Taiwan is democratic, China is ruled by a single party that often censors its citizens. Furthermore, standards of living in Taiwan are slightly higher. Finally, Taiwan’s geography is quite different. It is a wet subtropical island, in contrast to mainland China’s colder and drier climate.
- Vietnam had been ruled by China several times in history, most recently in 15th Century. So its culture is more similar to China than other Southeast Asian countries. They both have high rates of atheism but also practice Mahayana Buddhism. One reason for the high rate of atheism is that the governments of both countries have been controlled by the Communist Party. However, their languages are unrelated. Moreover, like Taiwan, its climate is mostly subtropical in contrast to China’s.
- North Korea, like Vietnam and China, is ruled by an authoritarian Communist Party, albeit a much more extreme version. In addition, Korean culture has been highly influenced by its close proximity to China. Both countries staple foods include potatoes, rice, and wheat. They also both use the standard railroad gauge and also drive on the right. However, North Korea is much poorer than China and its infrastructure is not as well developed.
- South Korea‘s culture and demographics are similar to China. They both tend to eat a lot of pork and seafood, along with rice and noodles. However unlike both North Korea and China, its government is a two-party democracy, although their laws are alike. South Korea also has a higher standard of living. In fact, it has the highest percentage of college graduates in the world.
- Japan has been greatly influenced by Chinese culture, due to its proximity. Although their languages countries are completely different, Japan still uses many Chinese characters in their writing. However, Japan’s infrastructure standards are completely different, as it drives on the left and uses 3′-6″ rail gauge. In addition, it has a different electrical system and a different TV broadcast standard than China. Like South Korea, its government is far more democratic as well.
- Singapore, 7. Thailand, 8. Mongolia, 9. Kazakhstan, 10. Laos
Top 10 Countries Least Similar to China
All of the least similar countries to China happen to have populations with mostly African ancestry. With the exception of the Bahamas, they all are located in Africa as well. The people in these countries use the Latin script and practice Abrahamic religions. Four of the five countries are significantly less wealthy than China. These countries are also far less mountainous.
- Central African Republic has very little in common with China. It is a sparsely populated, landlocked, and heavily forested country. Its people are mostly Christian. The country’s infrastructure is not nearly as well developed as China. It does not even have a working railroad. In contrast to China, Central African Republic’s government is highly unstable, since it has been subject to coups and civil war. Still, one interesting similarity is that they both have “central” in their names, since 中国 literally means “central country”.
- Somalia is an anarchic, predominately Muslim country in Africa with poorly developed infrastructure, due to civil war. The country also has little demographic or cultural similarity to China. In addition, China is quite mountainous, while Somalia is fairly flat. Still, a large portion of China is desert, although it is much colder than Somalia’s climate.
- Bahamas has a completely different geography from China, since it is a low-lying group of islands in the Western Hemisphere. In addition, it shares almost no cultural or political similarity. Furthermore, it drives on the left and uses Type A, B electrical outlets with a different voltage than China. However, unlike other countries on this list, it has a similar standard of living to China. According to the Lewis Model, Bahamian people tend to be much more outgoing than Chinese people.
- Guinea-Bissau is a former Portuguese territory in West Africa. Its climate is tropical and most of its land is close to the coast. In contrast to China, it does not allow abortion, but does allow polygamy. Guinea-Bissau’s people also have less government entitlements. The country does not have tuition free education, unemployment benefits, or retirement pensions. However, the people in both countries tend to consume a lot of rice.
- Niger has the least similar demographics to China. It has the highest birthrate in the world, while for several decades, China limited its people to having only one child. Although a large portion of China is barren desert landscape, like Niger, China’s climate is much colder. China is also much more densely populated. In addition, Niger’s government is more democratic, but also more unstable.
- Malawi, 7. Solomon Islands, 8. Liberia, 9. Papua New Guinea, 10. Trinidad and Tobago
China is like if Taiwan was more like North Korea
Taiwan is clearly the most similar country to China. However, the countries have significant differences in government and geography. While North Korea is quite different from China, the data shows that it does have many of the characteristics that China has but that Taiwan lacks. Both countries do not have democratically elected leaders and practice censorship more than Taiwan. Furthermore, China is more northern than Taiwan. Its climate is on average cooler and drier. North Korea’s climate is quite similar to much of Northeastern China.
All data accurate as of 2020.