Administrative divisions of China

Due to China's large population and area, the administrative divisions of China have consisted of several levels since ancient times. The constitution of China provides for three de jure levels of government. Currently, however, there are five practical (de facto) levels of local government: the provincial (province, autonomous region, municipality, and special administrative region), prefecture, county, township, and village.

Since the 17th century, provincial boundaries in China have remained largely static. Major changes since then have been the reorganization of provinces in the northeast after the establishment of the People's Republic of China and the formation of autonomous regions, based on Soviet ethnic policies. The provinces serve an important cultural role in China, as people tend to identify with their native province.


The Constitution of China provides for four levels: the provincial (province, autonomous region, municipality, and special administrative region), the prefectural (prefecture-level city[officially "city with district-level divisions" (设区的市) and "city without district-level divisions" (不设区的市)], autonomous prefecture, prefecture [additional division] and league [the alternative name of “prefecture” which is used in Inner Mongolia]), county (district, county, county-level city [officially “city without district-level divisions”], autonomous county, banner [the alternative name of “county” which is used in Inner Mongolia], autonomous banner [the alternative name of “autonomous county” which is used in Inner Mongolia], special district [additional division], forestry area [additional division]) and township. It’s must be noted that, the fifth level which is commonly known as “village level” is actually not an administrative level. The Constitution of China designs the fifth level as “basic level autonomy”. As of 2017, China administers 33 provincial-level regions, 334 prefecture-level divisions, 2,862 county-level divisions, 41,034 township-level administrations, and 704,382 basic level autonomies.[1]

Each of the levels (except "special administrative regions") correspond to a level in the Civil service of the People's Republic of China.


Structural hierarchy of the administrative divisions and basic level autonomies of the People's Republic of China
Provincial level (1st)
Prefectural level (2nd)
County level (3rd)
Township level (4th)
Basic level autonomy (5th)
Autonomous region
Sub-provincial-level autonomous prefecture 副省级自治州 District 市辖区
County-level city 县级市
Autonomous county 自治县
Autonomous banner 自治旗
Subdistrict 街道 /
Ethnic township 民族乡
County-controlled districts 县辖区
Sum 苏木
Ethnic sum 民族苏木
Community 社区 /
(Residential committees 居民委员会)
Village / Gaqa 嘎查
(Villager committees 村民委员会)
Prefectural-level city 地级市
Autonomous prefecture 自治州
Prefecture 地区
Sub-provincial-level city 副省级城市 District 市辖区
Special district 特区
County-level city 县级市
Autonomous county 自治县
Prefectural-level city 地级市
Autonomous prefecture 自治州
Prefecture 地区
Sub-prefectural-level city 副地级市
Forestry district 林区
Sub-provincial-level new area 副省级市辖新区
District 市辖区
Special administrative region
特别行政区 [特別行政區]
(Part of the One country, two systems)
see Region 地区 [地區] (informal) see District 区 [區]
see Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau 民政总署 [民政總署]
see Municipality(informal)
see Freguesia 堂区 [堂區] (informal)


This table summarizes the divisions of the area administered by the People's Republic of China As of June 2017.

Level Name Types
1 Provincial level (1st)
(1 claimed)

2 Prefectural level (2nd)

3 County level (3rd)

  • (1) Special district (特区; tèqū)
  • (1) Forestry district (林区; línqū)
4 Township level (4th)
Subdistrict offices (街道办事处; jiēdào bànshìchù)[3][4]
District public offices (区公所; qūgōngsuǒ)

5 Basic level autonomy (5th)
Communities (社区 / 社; shèqū / shè)
  • (558,310) Village Committee (村民委员会; cūnmínwěiyuánhuì)
Administrative Villages / Villages (行政村 / 村; xíngzhèngcūn / cūn)
Gaqa (嘎查; gāchá)

Provincial level (1st)

The People's Republic of China (PRC) administers 34 provincial-level divisions (省级行政区) or first-level divisions (一级行政区), including 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two specialadministrative regions:

Provinces are theoretically subservient to the PRC central government, but in practice provincial officials have large discretion with regard to economic policy. Unlike the United States, the power of the central government was (with the exception of the military) not exercised through a parallel set of institutions until the early 1990s. The actual practical power of the provinces has created what some economists call federalism with Chinese characteristics.

Most of the provinces, with the exception of the provinces in the northeast, have boundaries which were established long ago in the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Sometimes provincial borders form cultural or geographical boundaries. This was an attempt by the imperial government to discourage separatism and warlordism through a divide and rule policy. Nevertheless, provinces have come to serve an important cultural role in China. People tend to be identified in terms of their native provinces, and each province has a stereotype that corresponds to their inhabitants.

The most recent administrative changes have included the elevation of Hainan (1988) and Chongqing (1997) to provincial level status, and the creation of Hong Kong (1997) and Macau (1999) as Special administrative regions.

Provincial level governments vary in details of organization:

Provincial-level (1st) subdivisions

22 Provinces (; shěng): A standard provincial government is nominally led by a provincial committee, headed by a secretary. The committee secretary is first-in-charge of the province, come in second is the governor of the provincial government.
Autonomous regions (自治区; zìzhìqū): A minority subject which has a higher population of a particular minority ethnic group along with its own local government, but an autonomous region theoretically has more legislative rights than in actual practice. The governor of the Autonomous Regions is usually appointed from the respective minority ethnic group.
Municipalities (直辖市; zhíxiáshì): A higher level of city that is directly under the Chinese government, with status equal to that of the provinces. In practice, their political status is higher than that of common provinces.
Special administrative regions (SARs) (特别行政区;tèbié xíngzhèngqū): A highly autonomous and self-governing subnational subject of the People's Republic of China. Each SAR has a chief executive as head of the region and head of government. The SAR's government is not fully independent, as foreign policy and military defence are the responsibility of the central government, according to the Basic Laws of the two SARs.[5][6][7]
Claimed province: The People's Republic of China claims the island of Taiwan and its surrounding islets, including Penghu, as "Taiwan Province". (Kinmen and the Matsu Islands are claimed by the PRC as part of its Fujian Province. Pratas and Itu Aba are claimed by the PRC as part of Guangdong and Hainan provinces respectively.) The territory is controlled by the Republic of China (ROC, commonly called "Taiwan").

Prefectural level (2nd)

China Prefectural-level
Map of China's prefectural level divisions

Prefectural level divisions or second-level divisions are the second level of the administrative structure. Most provinces are divided into only prefecture-level cities and contain no other second level administrative units. Of the 22 provinces and 5 autonomous regions, only 3 provinces (Yunnan, Guizhou, Qinghai) and 1 autonomous region (Xinjiang) have more than three second-level or prefectural-level divisions that are not prefecture-level cities. As of 18, August 2015, there were 334 prefectural level divisions:

Prefectures (地区; dìqū): formerly the dominant second level division, thus this administrative level is often called "prefectural level". They were mostly replaced by prefecture-level cities from 1983 to the 1990s. Today, prefectures exist only in Heilongjiang, Tibet and Xinjiang.
30 Autonomous prefectures (自治州; zìzhìzhōu): prefectures with one or more designated ethnic minorities, mostly in China's western regions.
294 Prefecture-level cities (地级市; dìjíshì): the largest number of prefectural-level divisions, generally composed of an urban center and surrounding rural areas much larger than the urban core and thus not "cities" but municipalities in the strict sense of the term
Leagues (; méng): effectively the same as prefectures, but found only in Inner Mongolia. Like prefectures, leagues have mostly been replaced with prefecture-level cities. The unique name is a holdover from earlier forms of administration in Mongolia.

County level (3rd)

China County-level
Map of China's county-level divisions

As of August 18, 2015, there were 2,852 county-level divisions:

1,408 Counties (; xiàn): the most common county-level divisions, continuously in existence since the Warring States period, much earlier than any other level of government in China. Xian is often translated as "district" or "prefecture".
117 Autonomous counties (自治县; zìzhìxiàn): counties with one or more designated ethnic minorities, analogous to autonomous regions and prefectures
360 County-level cities (县级市; xiànjíshì): similar to prefecture-level cities, covering both urban and rural areas. It was popular for counties to become county-level cities in the 1990s, though this has since been halted.
913 Districts (市辖区 / 区; shìxiáqū / qū): formerly the subdivisions of urban areas, consisting of built-up areas only. Recently many counties have become districts, so that districts are now often just like counties, with towns, villages, and farmland.
49 Banners (; ): the same as counties except in the name, a holdover from earlier forms of administration in Mongolia
Autonomous banners (自治旗; zìzhìqí): the same as autonomous counties except in the name, a holdover from earlier forms of administration in Mongolia
1 Forestry area (林区; línqū): a special county-level forestry district located in Hubei province
1 Special district (特区; tèqū): a special county-level division located in Guizhou province

Township level (4th)

Township-level (4th) subdivisions

13,749 Townships (; xiāng): in smaller rural areas division they are divided into this subject
1,098 Ethnic townships (民族乡; mínzúxiāng): small rural areas divisions designated for one or more ethnic minorities are divided into this subject
19,322 Towns (; zhèn): in larger rural areas division they are divided into this subject
6,686 Subdistricts (街道 / 街; jiēdào / jiē): in a small urban areas division they are divided into this subject
County-controlled districts (县辖区; xiànxiáqū) are a vestigial level of government. These once represented an extra level of government between the county- and township-levels. Today there are very few of these remaining and they are gradually being phased out.
181 Sum (苏木; sūmù) are the same as townships, but are unique to Inner Mongolia.
Ethnic sum (民族苏木; mínzúsūmù) are the same as ethnic townships, but are unique to Inner Mongolia.

Basic level autonomy (5th)

The basic level autonomy serves as an organizational division (census, mail system) and does not have much importance in political representative power. Basic local divisions like neighborhoods and communities are not informal like in America, but have defined boundaries and elected heads (one per area):

In urban areas, every subdistrict of a district of a city administers many communities or residential committees. Each of them have a residential committee to administer the dwellers of that neighborhood or community. Rural areas are organized into village committees or villager groups. A "village" in this case can either be a natural village, one that spontaneously and naturally exists, or a virtual village, which is a bureaucratic entity.

Village-level (5th) subdivisions

80,717 Residential committees (居民委员会; jūmínwěiyuánhuì)
Residential groups (居民小组; jūmínxiǎozǔ)
  Communities (社区 / 社; shèqū / shè)
623,669 Village committees (村民委员会; cūnmínwěiyuánhuì)
Village groups (村民小组; cūnmínxiǎozǔ)
  Administrative Villages / Villages (行政村 / 村; xíngzhèngcūn / cūn)
  Gaqa (嘎查; gāchá)

Special cases

Five cities formally on prefectural level have a special status in regard to planning and budget. They are separately listed in the five-year and annual state plans on the same level as provinces and national ministries, making them economically independent of their provincial government. These cities specifically designated in the state plan (Chinese: 计划单列市) are

In terms of budget authority, their governments have the de facto status of a province, but their legislative organs (National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) and other authorities not related to the economy are on the level of a prefecture and under leadership of the province.[8][9]

Some other large prefecture-level cities, known as sub-provincial cities, are half a level below a province. The mayors of these cities have the same rank as a vice governor of a province, and their district governments are half a rank higher than those of normal districts. The capitals of some provinces (seat of provincial government) are sub-provincial cities. In addition to the five cities specifically designated in the state plan, sub-provincial cities are[10]

A similar case exists with some county-level cities. Some county-level cities are given more autonomy. These cities are known as sub-prefecture-level cities, meaning that they are given a level of power higher than a county, but still lower than a prefecture. Such cities are also half a level higher than what they would normally be. Sub-prefecture-level cities are often not put into any prefecture (i.e. they are directly administered by their province). Examples of sub-prefecture-level cities include Jiyuan (Henan province), Xiantao, Qianjiang and Tianmen (Hubei), Golmud (Qinghai), Manzhouli (Inner Mongolia), Shihanza, Tumushuk, Aral, and Wujiaqu (Xinjiang).

Some districts are also placed at half a level higher that what it should be. Examples are Pudong, Shanghai and Binhai, Tianjin. Although its status as a district of a municipality would define it as prefecture-level, the district head of Pudong is given sub-provincial powers. In other words, it is half a level higher than what it would normally be.

Special cases subdivisions

Sub-provincial autonomous prefecture (副省级自治州; fùshěngjízìzhìzhōu)
15 Sub-provincial cities (副省级城市; fùshěngjíchéngshì)
Sub-provincial new areas (副省级市辖新区; fùshěngjíchéngshìxiáqū)
Sub-prefecture-level cities (副地级市; fùdìjíshì)

Ambiguity of the word "city" in China

The Chinese word "" (shì) is usually loosely translated into English as "city". However, it has several different meanings due to the complexity of the administrative divisions used in China.

(Despite being urban or having urban centers, the SARs are almost never referred as "Hong Kong City"/"Macau City" in contemporary Chinese, thus excluded from below)

By its political level, when a "city" is referred to, it can be a:

By its actual area and population, it can be:

  • Province-like, which is the municipality of Chongqing, a merger of 4 former prefectures and similar to the former Eastern-Sichuan province
  • Prefecture-like, which are the other three municipalities and almost all prefectural-level cities, usually 10-1,000 times larger than the urban center and a conglomeration of several counties and county-level cities. Some of them in sparsely populated areas like Hulunbuir are even larger than Chongqing but have a population comparable to that of prefectures.
  • County-like, which is all sub-prefecture-level and some county-level cities, and several extremely simple prefecture-level cities (Jiayuguan, Xiamen, Haikou, etc.)
  • Not substantially larger than urban establishment: some county-level cities, plus some members of the previous category. However, country-level cities converted from counties is unlikely to belong here. Shanghai, despite being prefecture-like in size, belongs here due to its subway already extending beyond municipality limits. Some other economically prosperous prefecture-level cities are also provoking inter-prefecture urban integration, although they still possess (and never intend to eliminate) large swaths of rural area.

When used in the statistical data, the word "city" may have three different meanings:

  • The area administrated by the city. For the municipality, the sub-provincial city, or the prefecture-level city, a "city" in this sense includes all of the counties, county-level cities, and city districts that the city governs. For the Sub-prefecture-level city or the County-level city, it includes all of the subdistricts, towns and townships that it has.
  • The area comprising its urban city districts and suburb city districts. The difference between the urban district and the suburb districts is that an urban district comprises only the subdistricts, while a suburb district also has towns and townships to govern rural areas. In some sense, this definition is approximately the metropolitan area. This definition is not applied to the sub-prefecture-level city and the county-level city since they do not have city districts under them.
    • Somewhat bizarrely, some districts such as Haidian District also possess towns. They have been treated clearly as urban districts for decades, but not from the inception, and indeed some areas rural but other areas form an inseparable part of the central city.
  • The urban area. Sometimes the urban area is referred as (Chinese: 市区; pinyin: shìqū). For the municipality, the sub-provincial city, and the prefecture-level city, it comprises the urban city district and the adjacent subdistricts of the suburb city districts. For the sub-prefecture-level city and the county-level city, only central subdistricts are included. This definition is close to the strict meaning of "city" in western countries.

It is important to specify the definition of "city" when referring to statistical data of Chinese cities, otherwise, confusion may arise. For example, Shanghai is the largest city in China by population in the urban area but is smaller than Chongqing by the population within the administration area.[11]


1949 PRC map
Map of the PRC in 1949

Before the establishment of the Qin Dynasty, China was ruled by a network of kings, nobles, and tribes. The rivalry of these groups culminated in the Warring States period, and the state of Qin eventually emerged dominant.

The Qin Dynasty was determined not to allow China to fall back into disunity, and therefore designed the first hierarchical administrative divisions in China, based on two levels: jùn commanderies and xiàn counties. The Han Dynasty that came immediately after added zhōu (usually translated as "provinces") as a third level on top, forming a three-tier structure.

The Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty abolished commanderies, and added circuits (dào, later under the Song and Jin) on top, maintaining a three-tier system that lasted through the 13th Century. (As a second-level division, zhou are translated as "prefectures".) The Mongol-established Yuan Dynasty introduced the modern precursors to provinces, bringing the number of levels to four. This system was then kept more or less intact until the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty to rule China.

The Republic of China streamlined the levels to just provinces and counties in 1928, and made the first attempt to extend political administration beyond the county level by establishing townships below counties. This was also the system officially adopted by the People's Republic of China in 1949, which defined the administrative divisions of China as three levels: provinces, counties, and townships.

In practice, however, more levels were inserted. The ROC government soon learned that it was not feasible for a province to directly govern tens and sometimes hundreds of counties. Started from Jiangxi province in 1935, Prefectures were later inserted between provinces and counties. They continue be ubiquitously applied by the PRC government to nearly all areas of China until the 1980s. Since then, most of the prefectures were converted into prefecture-level cities. Greater administrative areas were inserted on top of provinces by the PRC government, but they were soon abolished, in 1954. District public offices were inserted between counties and townships; once ubiquitous as well, they are currently being abolished, and very few remain.

The most recent major developments have been the establishment of Chongqing as a municipality and the creation of Hong Kong and Macau as special administrative regions.


In recent years there have been calls to reform the administrative divisions and levels of China. Rumours of an impending major reform have also spread through various online bulletin boards.[12]

The district public offices is an ongoing reform to remove an extra level of administration from between the county and township levels. There have also been calls to abolish the prefecture level, and some provinces have transferred some of the power prefectures currently hold to the counties they govern. There are also calls to reduce the size of the provinces. The ultimate goal is to reduce the different administration levels from five to three (Provincial level, County level, Village level), reducing the amount of corruption as well as the number of government workers, in order to lower the budget.

See also


  1. ^ King, Gary (January 14, 2017). "How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument". Self-published at Harvard University. Archived from the original on 2017-01-19. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" 中国的行政区划——省级行政单位. Government of the People's Republic of China. 2009-04-17. Archived from the original on 2015-07-15. Retrieved 2015-09-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ 精选汉英词典(第四版) [Concise Chinese-English Dictionary (Fourth Edition).]. Oxford University Press and The Commercial Press. 2011. p. 248. 街道 jiēdào ()1 street 2 what concerns the neighborhood: ~ 办事处 subdistrict office. {...}
  4. ^ 現代漢語詞典(第七版) [Contemporary Chinese Dictionary (Seventh Edition).]. The Commercial Press. 1 September 2016. p. 663. ISBN 978-7-100-12450-8. 【街道办事处】 jiēdào bànshìchù 市辖区、不设区的市的人民政府派出机关。 在上一级政府领导下,负责本辖区内的社区服务、经济发展、社会治安等工作。
  5. ^ Archived copy 中华人民共和国行政区划 [Administrative divisions of the People's Republic of China], 15 June 2005, archived from the original on 2010-07-23, retrieved 5 June 2010CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Chapter II : Relationship between the Central Authorities and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Article 12, archived from the original on 2010-07-29, retrieved 5 June 2010
  7. ^ Chapter II Relationship between the Central Authorities and the Macau Special Administrative Region, Article 12, archived from the original on 5 February 2012, retrieved 5 June 2010
  8. ^ "Baidu Baike" (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  9. ^ "Hudong Wiki" (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2010-09-06. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  10. ^ "Baidu Baike" (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  11. ^ Chan, Kam Wing (2007). "Misconceptions and Complexities in the Study of China's Cities: Definitions, Statistics, and Implications" (PDF). Eurasian Geography and Economics. University of Washington. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-01-15. Retrieved 2011-07-21.
  12. ^ "Archived copy" 民政部官员:“中国将要设50个省区市”报道失实 (in Chinese). Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in New York. 2004-05-10. Archived from the original on 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2009-10-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links

Administrative divisions of China (disambiguation)

Administrative divisions of China are the political divisions of the People's Republic of China.

Administrative divisions of China may also refer to:

History of the administrative divisions of China:

History of the administrative divisions of China before 1912

History of the administrative divisions of China (1912–49)

History of the administrative divisions of China (1949–present)

Administrative divisions of the Special Administrative Regions of China

Districts of Hong Kong

Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (Macau)

Autonomous administrative divisions of China

Autonomous administrative divisions of China are specific areas associated with one or more ethnic minorities that are designated as autonomous within the People's Republic of China (PRC). These areas are recognized in the Constitution of China and are nominally given a number of rights not accorded to other administrative divisions. For example, Tibetan minorities in Autonomous regions are granted rights and support not given to the Han Chinese, such as fiscal and medical subsidies.

Autonomous county

Autonomous counties and autonomous banners are autonomous administrative divisions of China.

There are 117 autonomous counties and three autonomous banners. The latter are found in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the former are found everywhere else. The two are essentially identical except in name.

Autonomous prefecture

Autonomous prefectures (Chinese: 自治州; pinyin: Zìzhìzhōu) are one type of autonomous administrative divisions of China, existing at the prefectural level, with either ethnic minorities forming over 50% of the population or being the historic home of significant minorities. All autonomous prefectures are mostly dominated, in population, by the Han Chinese. The official name of an autonomous prefecture includes the most dominant minority in that region, sometimes two, rarely three. For example, a Kazakh (Kazak in official naming system) prefecture may be called Kazak Zizhizhou. Like all other prefectural level divisions, autonomous prefectures are divided into county level divisions. There is one exception: Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture contains two prefectures of its own. Under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, autonomous prefectures cannot be abolished.

Autonomous regions of China

An autonomous region (AR; simplified Chinese: 自治区; traditional Chinese: 自治區; pinyin: zìzhìqū) is a first-level administrative division of China. Like Chinese provinces, an autonomous region has its own local government, but an autonomous region has more legislative rights. An autonomous region is the highest level of minority autonomous entity in China, which has a comparably higher population of a particular minority ethnic group.

The Inner Mongolia autonomous region was established in 1947; Xinjiang was made autonomous in 1955; Guangxi and Ningxia in 1958, and Tibet in 1965. The designation of Guangxi and Ningxia as Zhuang and Hui autonomous areas, respectively, was bitterly protested by the local Han Chinese, who made up two-thirds of the population of each region. Although Mongols made an even smaller percentage of Inner Mongolia than either of these, the ensuing Chinese Civil War gave little opportunity for protest.

Banners of Inner Mongolia

A banner (Chinese: 旗; pinyin: qí) is an administrative division of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China, corresponding to the county level.

Banners were first used during the Qing Dynasty, which organized the Mongols into banners except those who belonged to the Eight Banners. Each banner had sumu as nominal subdivisions. In Inner Mongolia, several banners made up a league. In the rest, including Outer Mongolia, northern Xinjiang and Qinghai, Aimag (Аймаг) was the largest administrative division. While it restricted the Mongols from crossing banner borders, the dynasty protected Mongolia from population pressure from China proper.

There were 49 banners and 24 tribes during the Republic of China.Today, banners are a county level division in the Chinese administrative hierarchy. There are 49 banners in total.

Counties of China

Counties (simplified Chinese: 县; traditional Chinese: 縣; pinyin: Xiàn), formally county-level divisions, are found in the third level of the administrative hierarchy in Provinces and Autonomous regions, and the second level in municipalities and Hainan, a level that is known as "county level" and also contains autonomous counties, county-level cities, banners, autonomous banner, and City districts. There are 1,355

counties in Mainland China out of a total of 2,851 county-level divisions.

The term xian is usually translated as "districts" or "prefectures" when put in the context of Chinese history. This article, however, will try to keep the terminology consistent with the modern translation, and use the term "county" throughout, though this is not conventional practice in Sinology literature.

Direct-administered municipalities of China

A municipality (simplified Chinese: 直辖市; traditional Chinese: 直轄市; pinyin: zhíxiáshì; literally: 'direct-controlled city'), formally as municipality under the direct administration of central government, is the highest level of classification for cities used by the People's Republic of China. These cities have the same rank as provinces, and form part of the first tier of administrative divisions of China.

A municipality is a "city" (Chinese: 市; pinyin: shì) with "provincial" (Chinese: 省级; pinyin: shěngjí) power under a unified jurisdiction. As such it is simultaneously a city and a province of its own right.

A municipality is often not a "city" in the usual sense of the term (i.e., a large continuous urban settlement), but instead an administrative unit comprising, typically, a main central urban area (a city in the usual sense, usually with the same name as the municipality), and its much larger surrounding rural area containing many smaller cities (districts and subdistricts), towns and villages. The larger municipality spans over 100 kilometres (62 mi). To distinguish a "municipality" from its actual urban area (the traditional meaning of the word city), the term "urban area" (Chinese: 市区) is used.

History of the administrative divisions of China

The history of the administrative divisions of China is covered in the following articles:

History of the administrative divisions of China before 1912

History of the administrative divisions of China (1912–49) (Republic of China on the mainland)

History of the administrative divisions of China (1949–present) (People's Republic of China)

History of the administrative divisions of China (1912–49)

The history of the administrative divisions of China between 1912 and 1949 refers to the administrative divisions under the Republic of China government control.

History of the administrative divisions of China (1949–present)

The History of the administrative divisions of China after 1949 refers to the administrative divisions under the People's Republic of China. In 1949, the communist forces initially held scattered fragments of China at the start of the Chinese civil war. By late 1949, they controlled the majority of mainland China, forcing the Republic of China government to relocate to Taiwan.

List of administrative divisions of Beijing

Beijing is one of the four direct-controlled municipalities of the People's Republic of China, and is divided into 16 districts.

Prefectures of China

Prefectures, formally a kind of prefecture-level divisions as a term in the context of China, are used to refer to several unrelated political divisions in both ancient and modern China. There are 334 prefecture-level divisions in China. They include 7 prefectures, 293 prefecture-level cities, 30 autonomous prefectures and 3 leagues. Other than provincial level divisions, prefectural level divisions are not mentioned in the Chinese constitution.

Provinces of China

Provincial-level administrative divisions (Chinese: 省级行政区; pinyin: shěng-jí xíngzhèngqū), or first-level administrative divisions (一级行政区; yī-jí xíngzhèngqū), are the highest-level Chinese administrative divisions. There are 34 such divisions, classified as 23 provinces (Chinese: 省; pinyin: shěng), four municipalities, five autonomous regions, and two Special Administrative Regions. All but Taiwan Province and a small fraction of Fujian Province (currently administered by the Republic of China) are controlled by the People's Republic of China.

Note that every province (except Hong Kong and Macau, the two special administrative regions) has a Communist Party of China provincial committee (Chinese: 省委; pinyin: shěngwěi), headed by a secretary (Chinese: 书记; pinyin: shūjì). The committee secretary is effectively in charge of the province, rather than the nominal governor of the provincial government.

Sub-prefectural city

A sub-prefectural municipality (simplified Chinese: 副地级市; traditional Chinese: 副地級市; pinyin: fùdìjíshì), sub-prefectural city, or vice-prefectural municipality, is an unofficial designation for a type of administrative division of China. A sub-prefectural city is officially considered to be a county-level city, but it has more power de facto because the cadres assigned to its government are one half-level higher in rank than those of an "ordinary" county-level city—though still lower than those of a prefecture-level city.

While county-level cities are under the administrative jurisdiction of prefecture-level divisions, sub-prefectural cities are often (but not always) administered directly by the provincial government, with no intervening prefecture level administration.

Examples of sub-prefectural cities that does not belong to any prefecture: Jiyuan (Henan Province), Xiantao, Qianjiang and Tianmen (Hubei), Shihezi, Tumxuk, Aral, and Wujiaqu (Xinjiang).

Examples of sub-prefectural cities that nevertheless belong to a prefecture: Golmud (Haixi, Qinghai), Manzhouli (Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia).

Sub-provincial division

A sub-provincial division (simplified Chinese: 副省级行政区; traditional Chinese: 副省級行政區; pinyin: fùshĕngjí xíngzhèngqū) (or deputy-provincial divisions) in the People's Republic of China is like a prefecture-level city that is governed by a province, but is administered independently in regard to economy and law.

Sub-provincial divisions, similar to prefectural-level divisions, an administrative unit comprising, typically, a main central urban area, and its much larger surrounding rural area containing many smaller cities, towns and villages.

The mayor or chairman of a sub-provincial division is equal in status to a vice-governor of a province. Its status is below that of municipalities, which are independent and equivalent to provinces, but above other, regular prefecture-level divisions, which are completely ruled by their provinces. However, they are marked the same as other provincial capitals (or prefecture-level city if not provincial capital) in almost all maps.

Subdistricts of China

The subdistrict (Chinese: 街道 / 街; pinyin: jiēdào / jiē, literally "Street") is one of the smaller political divisions of China. It is a form of township-level division which is typically part of a larger urban area, as opposed to a discrete town surrounded by rural areas, or a rural township known as a xiang (乡).

In general, urban areas are divided into subdistricts, and a subdistrict is sub-divided into several residential communities or neighbourhoods as well as into villagers' groups (居民区/居住区,小区/社区,村民小组).

The subdistrict's administrative agency is the subdistrict office (Chinese: 街道办事处; pinyin: jīedào bànshìchù) or simply the jiedao ban (街道办,jiēdào bàn). Because of the influence of the literal meaning of the Chinese word for 'subdistrict' (street [街道, jiedao]), the term is prone to alternative translations like 'street community'.

Sum (country subdivision)

Sum, sumu, sumon, and somon (Plural: sumd) are a type of administrative district used in China, Mongolia, and Russia.

Villages of China

Villages (Chinese: 村; pinyin: Cūn), formally village-level divisions (村级行政区; Cūn Jí Xíngzhèngqū) in China, serve as a fundamental organizational unit for its rural population (census, mail system). Basic local divisions like neighborhoods and communities are not informal, but have defined boundaries and designated heads (one per area). In 2000, China's densely populated villages (>100 persons/square km) had a population greater than 500 million and covered more than 2 million square kilometers, or more than 20% of China's total area.

Provincial divisions of China
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Administrative divisions of Asia
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