Information about provinces, cities, counties,towns in China
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China consists of 23 provinces, 5 autonomous ethinic regions, 4 municipalities directly under the central government , 2 special administrative regions and 1 independent province (Taiwan),at the first level,i.e. provicial level, 333 municipalities and prefectures at the second level, also referred to as prefectural level, and 2,856 counties, cities and districts at the third level,i.e. county-level, as well as over 40,906 towns, townships and sub-districts at the fourth level (township-level). All that can be traced on this website. .

The administrative division system of China (Level 2)

Of the five levels of administrative divisions in the People's Republic of China: the province, prefecture, county, township and village, PREFECTURE is lying at the second tier. There are 333 prefecture-level regions presently in China.

This table summarizes the divisions of the area administered by the People's Republic of China as of December 31, 2005.

Level Name Types
1 Province level
  • Provinces (省 shěng) (23)
  • Autonomous regions (自治区 zìzhìqū) (5)
  • Municipalities directly under central government (直辖市 zhíxiáshì) (4)
  • Special administrative regions (特别行政区 tèbié xíngzhèngqū) (2)
2 Prefecture level
  • Prefectures (地区 dìqū) (17)
  • Autonomous prefectures(自治州 zìzhìzhōu) (30)
  • Prefecture-level municipalities/cities (地级市 dìjíshì) (283)
  • Leagues (盟 méng) (3)
3 County level
  • Counties (县 xiàn) (1,464)
  • Autonomous counties (自治县 zìzhìxiàn) (117)
  • County-level cities(县级市 xiànjíshì) (374)
  • Districts (市辖区 shìxiáqū) (852)
  • Banners (旗 qí) (49)
  • Autonomous banners (自治旗 zìzhìqí) (3)
  • Forestry areas (林区 línqū) (1)
  • Special districts (特区 tèqū) (2)
4 Township level
  • Townships (乡 xiāng) (14,677)
  • Ethnic townships (民族乡 mínzúxiāng) (1,092)
  • Towns(镇 zhèn) (19,522)
  • Subdistricts(街道办事处 jiēdàobànshìchù) (6,152)
  • District public offices(区公所 qūgōngsuǒ) (11)
  • Sumu (苏木 sūmù) (181)
  • Ethnic sumu (民族苏木 mínzúsūmù) (1)
5 Village level (informal)
  • Neighborhood committees (社区居民委员会 jūmínwěiyuánhùi) (80,717)
    • Communities (社区)
  • Village committees (村民委员会 cūnmínwěiyuánhùi) (623,669)
    • Administrative villages (行政村 xíngzhèngcūn)
    • Natural villages (自然村 zìráncūn)
    • Village groups (村民小组 cūnmínxiǎozǔ)

Prefecture-level divisions are the second level of the administrative structure. As of December 31, 2005, this structure consisted of 333 divisions composed of:
  • 17 Prefecture (地区; dìqū)— These were formerly the dominant second-level division, which is why this administrative level is often called "prefecture-level". However, they were replaced for the most part by Prefecture-level municipalities (cities) from 1983 to the 1990s. Today, prefectures exist mostly in Xinjiang and Tibet
  • 30 Autonomous Prefectures (自治州; zīzhìzhou)— Are prefectures with one or more designated ethnic minorities. These are mostly to be found in China's western regions.
  • 283 Prefecture-level municipalities (cities) (地级市; dìjíshì)— It form the vast majority of prefecture-level divisions. Prefecture-level municipalities (cities) are generally composed of an urban center and surrounding rural areas much larger than the urban core, and thus are not "cities" in the strict sense of the term. When people come to translate "市"(shì) under this background, discrepancies occur. Some people use Municipality, such as Hangzhou Municipality,Ningbo Municipality and others use City, Such as Hangzhou City and Ningbo City.
  • 3 Leagues (盟; méng)— are effectively the same as prefectures, but they are to be found only in Inner Mongolia. Like prefectures, leagues have mostly been replaced with Prefecture-level municipalities (cities). The unique name is a holdover from earlier forms of administration in Mongolia.
Special cases
Although every single administrative division has a clearly defined level associated with it, sometimes an entity may be given more autonomy than its level allows for.
For example, a few of the largest Prefecture-level municipalities (cities) are given more autonomy. These are known as sub-provincial cities, meaning that they are given a level of power higher than a prefecture, but still lower than a province. Such cities are half a level higher than what they would normally be. Although these cities still belong to provinces, their special status gives them a high degree of autonomy within their respective provinces. East China's Ningbo, North China's Dalian and South China's Shenzhen fall within this scope. The bosses of this Municipality ,i.e. the CPC secretary , are of higher level than those CPC Secretaries of common municipalities.
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).
A concrete example is the Pudong District of Shanghai. Although its status as a district of a direct-controlled 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
  • 16 Sub-Provincial Cities (副省级城市; fùshěngjíchéngshì)
  • 8 Sub-Prefecture-level municipalities (cities) (副地级市); fùdìjíshì)
  • 1 Sub-Provincial Districts (副省级城市辖区; fùshěngjíchéngshìxiáqū)
Ambiguity of the word "city" in China
Due to the complexity of the administrative divisions, the Chinese word "市"(shì) or in English "city", have many different meanings.
By its political level, when a "city" is referred, it can be a:
  • LV 1 (provincial-level):
    Municipality of China, for example, Beijing
  • LV 2 (prefecture-level):
    Sub-provincial municipality, for example, Shenyang
    Prefecture-level municipality, for example, Baoding
  • LV 3 (county-level):
    Sub-prefecture-level city, for example, Jiyuan
    County-level city, for example, Yiwu

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

The area administrated by the city:
For the provincial-level municipality, the sub-provincial city, or the prefecture-level city, a "city" in this sense includes all of the counties, county-level cities, city districts that the city governed. 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 comprised by its the urban city districts and suburb city districts:
The difference between the urban district and the suburb districts is that an urban district is only comprised by the subdistricts, while a suburb district also have 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.

The urban area:
Sometimes the urban area is referred as (市区 shìqū). For the provincial-level municipality, the sub-provincial municipality, and the prefecture-level municipallity, it is comprised by 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 the population in the urban area, but it is a smaller city than Chongqing by the population within the administration area


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