Direct-controlled municipalities of China

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China municipalities numbered.svg
Category Unitary State
Location People's Republic of China
Number 4
Populations 12,938,224 (Tianjin) – 28,846,170 (Chongqing)
Areas 2,448.1 square miles (6,341 km2) (Shanghai) – 31,816 square miles (82,400 km2) (Chongqing)
Government Dual-Party Government
Subdivisions District, County, Autonomous County

A municipality (simplified Chinese: 直辖市; traditional Chinese: 直轄市; pinyin: zhíxiáshì), also translated as direct-controlled municipality (formally), municipality directly under the central government, or province-level municipality is the highest level 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: ; pinyin: shì) with "provincal" (Chinese: 省级; pinyin: shěngjí) power under an unified jurisdiction. As such it is simultaneously a city, which is a municipal entry and a province of it 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 & subdistricts), towns and villages. The larger municipality span over 100 kilometres (62 mi). To distinguish a "municipality" from its actual urban area (the traditional meaning of the word "city"), the term Chinese: 市区, or "urban area", is used.


The first municipalities were the 11 cities of Nanjing, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao, Chongqing, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Hankou (now part of Wuhan), Shenyang, and Harbin when the ROC government ruled China. They were established in 1927 soon after they were designated as "cities" during the 1920s. Nominally, Dalian was a municipality as well, although it was under Japanese control. These cities were first called special municipalities/cities (特别市; 特別市; tébiéshì), but were later renamed Yuan-controlled municipalities (院辖市; 院轄市; yuànxiáshì), then direct-controlled municipalities (直辖市; 直轄市; zhíxiáshì) by the Central Government.

After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Anshan, Benxi, and Fushun were also made municipalities, while Qingdao, Dalian, and Harbin were reduced to provincial municipalities.[2] Hankou was merged into Wuhan. Hence, there remained 12 municipalities, until Dalian was elevated in 1950. In November 1952, Nanjing was reduced to a provincial municipality.[3] In July 1953, Harbin was restored to municipality status, along with Changchun.[4] Except Beijing and Tianjin, which were under central control, all other municipalities were governed by the greater administrative areas.

In June 1954, 11 of the 14 municipalities were reduced to sub-provincial cities; many of them became capitals of the provinces they were in. Only Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin remained municipalities, until Chongqing was restored as a municipality in 1997 with a much enlarged area. Tianjin was also temporarily reverted to sub-provincial city status around the 1960s.

Position in hierarchy[edit]

Municipalities are the highest-ranked cities in the PRC. Some cities of lower levels may also refer to themselves as municipalities in the English language.

Three levels of cities in the People's Republic of China:

  1. Municipalities (直辖市; 直轄市; zhíxiáshì);
  2. Prefecture-level cities (地级市; 地級市; dìjíshì), including sub-provincial cities; and,
  3. County-level cities (县级市; 縣級市; xiànjíshì), including sub-prefecture-level cities.


In municipalities, the highest ranking government official is the Mayor. The mayor is also a delegate in the National People's Congress (the legislature)[5] and Deputy Secretary of the CPC Municipal Committee. However, the highest administrative authority in the municipality belongs to the Secretary of the CPC Municipal Committee or Party Secretary.

Current PRC Municipalities[edit]

ISO[6] Division name Simplified Chinese Pinyin Abbr. Region Population[7] Area (km²) Density (/km²) Divisions City seat Province split from
CN-11 Municipality of Beijing 北京市 Běijīng Shì jīng North 19,612,368 16,801 1,167 List (14 districts & 2 counties) Dongcheng District &
Tongzhou District
(Oct. 1949)
CN-12 Municipality of Tianjin 天津市 Tiānjīn Shì jīn North 12,938,224 11,760 1,100 List (15 districts & 1 county) Heping District Hebei
(Jan. 1967)
CN-31 Municipality of Shanghai 上海市 Shànghǎi Shì East 23,019,148 6,340 3,630 List (16 districts & 1 county) Huangpu District Jiangsu
(Mar. 1927)
CN-50 Municipality of Chongqing 重庆市 Chóngqìng Shì Southwest 28,846,170
(City Core 16,240,026)
(City Core 6,268)
(City Core 2,158)
List (23 districts, 11 counties, & 4 autonomous counties)
(City Core: 19 districts)
Yuzhong District Sichuan
(May 1997)

Former ROC and PRC municipalities[edit]

Name Simplified Chinese Pinyin Abbr. Region City seat Administration period Original division
City of Jingdu 京都市 Jīngdū Shì jīng North Dongcheng District 1921-1927 Zhili
(present province: Hebei)
City of Jingu 津沽市 Jīngū Shì jīn North Heping District 1921-1927 Zhili
(present province: Hebei)
City of Songhu 淞沪市 Sōnghù Shì East Huangpu District 1921-1927 Jiangsu
City of Qingdao 青岛市 Qīngdǎo Shì qīng East Shinan District 1921-1927, 1929–1949 Shandong
City of Harbin 哈尔滨市 Hārbīn Shì Northeast Nangang District 1921-1927, 1947–1949, 1953–1954 Songjiang
(present province: Heilongjiang)
City of Hankou 汉口市 Hànkǒu Shì hàn South Central Jiang'an District 1921-1927, 1929–1931, 1947-1949 Hubei
City of Wuxi 无锡市 Wúxī Shì East Binhu District 1921-1927 Jiangsu
City of Hangzhou 杭州市 Hángzhōu Shì háng East Gongshu District 1921-1927 Zhejiang
City of Ningbo 宁波市 Níngbō Shì yǒng East Jiangdong District 1921-1927 Zhejiang
City of Anqing 安庆市 Ānqìng Shì ān East Daguan District 1921-1927 Anhui
City of Nanchang 南昌市 Nánchāng Shì hóng East Donghu District 1921-1927 Jiangxi
City of Wuchang 武昌市 Wǔchāng Shì East Wuchang District 1921-1927 Hubei
City of Guangzhou 广州市 Guǎngzhōu Shì suì South Central Yuexiu District 1921-1927, 1930, 1947–1954 Guangdong
City of Wuzhou 梧州市 Wúzhōu Shì South Central Changzhou District 1921-1927 Guangxi
City of Nanjing 南京市 Nánjīng Shì níng East Xuanwu District 1927–1952 Jiangsu
City of Xi'an 西安市 Xī'ān Shì hào Northwest Weiyang District 1927–1954 Shaanxi
City of Wuhan 武汉市 Wǔhàn Shì hàn South Central Jiang'an District 1927-1929, 1949 Hubei
City of Beiping 北平市 Jīngdū Shì píng North Dongcheng District 1928-1949 Zhili
(present province: Hebei)
City of Dalian 大连市 Dàlián Shì lián Northeast Xigang District 1947–1949 Andong/Liaodong
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Shenyang 沈阳市 Shěnyáng Shì shěn Northeast Shenhe District 1947–1954 Liaoxi
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Anshan 鞍山市 Ānshān Shì ān Northeast Tiedong District 1949–1954 Andong/Liaodong
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Benxi 本溪市 Běnxī Shì běn Northeast Pingshan District 1949–1954 Andong/Liaodong
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Fushun 抚顺市 Fǔshùn Shì Northeast Xinfu District 1949–1954 Andong/Liaodong
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Lüda 旅大市 Lǚdà Shì Northeast Xigang District 1950–1954 Lüda
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Changchun 长春市 Chángchūn Shì chūn Northeast Nanguan District 1953–1954 Jilin


  1. ^ "Local Governments". Chinese Government's Official Web Portal. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ [2][dead link]
  4. ^ [3][dead link]
  5. ^ [4][dead link]
  6. ^ ISO 3166-2:CN (ISO 3166-2 codes for the provinces of China)
  7. ^ "Communiqué of the National Bureau of Statistics of People's Republic of China on Major Figures of the 2010 Population Census (No. 1)". National Bureau of Statistics of China. April 28, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2011.