Special municipality (Taiwan)

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Special Municipality[I]
Subdivision types of the Republic of China (2014).svg
Special municipalities are shown in pink
CategorySpecial municipalities, counties, and cities
LocationIsland of Taiwan
    • City government
    • City council

A special municipality[I] is an administrative division unit in Taiwan. Under the administrative structure of Taiwan, it is the highest rank of division and is equivalent to a province. Since the streamlining of provinces in 1998, the special municipalities along with provincial cities and counties have all been directly under the central government.[1]

Currently total six cities are designated as special municipalities: Taipei, New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, all located in the most densely populated regions of the western half of the island.[2] These special municipalities include the five most populous metropolitan areas in Taiwan, accounting for more than two-thirds of the national population.


The first municipalities of China were established in 1927 soon after they were designated as "cities" during the 1920s. Nominally, Dairen was a municipality as well, although it was under Japanese control. It consisted of the original 11 cities of Nanking, Shanghai, Peking (Peiping), Tientsin, Tsingtao, Chungking, Sian, Canton, Hankow (now part of Wuhan), Shenyang, and Harbin. These cities were first called special municipalities/cities (特別市; tèbiéshì), but were later renamed Yuan-controlled municipalities (院辖市; 院轄市; yuànxiáshì).

When the island of Taiwan (Formosa) was under Japanese rule, it consisted of 11 cities. Following the end of World War II, the Republic of China (ROC) reclaimed Taiwan and no special municipalities were established although they became provincial cities, but Yilan and Hualien became the first two county-administered cities.

After the fall of the mainland to the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, the Kuomintang-led government of the Republic of China lost the Chinese Civil War and was relocated to Taipei, Taiwan. At this time all the special municipalities established in mainland China were lost. There were no special municipalities under the government's effective jurisdiction, in which the new authorities in the mainland replaced the Yuan-controlled municipalities with direct-controlled municipalities by the PRC Central Government.

In 1967, Taipei City, the first special municipality in Taiwan was created. Taipei served as the capital of the country starting in 1949 and was also the most populous city. Territory of the Taipei special municipality includes the original provincial Taipei City and 4 of its neighboring townships in Taipei County, including Neihu, Nangang, Muzha and Jingmei. In the next year, Shilin and Beitou of Yangmingshan Administrative Bureau (a county-equivalent administrative division) were also merged into Taipei.

In 1979, the major international port and industrial city in the southwest of the country — Kaohsiung — were also upgraded to a special municipality. Territory of the Kaohsiung special municipality includes the original provincial Kaohsiung City and Siaogang Township in Kaohsiung County.

At this time, Taiwan was under martial law. All national and municipal level elections were suspended. The mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung were assigned by the Executive Yuan (central government), not by elections until 1994. For this reason the special municipalities were also called Yuan-controlled municipalities (Chinese: 院轄市; pinyin: yuànxiáshì) at this period.

Following the democratic reforms in the early 1990s, more thoughts of administrative division reform and reorganization were widely discussed. The Local Government Act (地方制度法) was passed by the Legislative Yuan (the Parliament) in 1999. This Act regulates the local self-governance bodies and came with some articles to deal with the possible changes of administrative divisions. In the Act also states that cities with population of over 1,250,000 and with significance on political, economic and cultural development may form a special municipality.

The 2007 amendment of Local Government Act states that a county or city with population over two million may grant some extra privileges in local autonomy that was designed for special municipalities. This type of counties are often called quasi-municipalities (準直轄市). Taipei County was the first division within this case. In 2009, another amendment of Local Government Act gave councils of counties and cities the right to file petitions to reform themselves into special municipalities. Four proposals were approved by the Executive Yuan in 2009

The four newly created special municipalities were formally established on December 25, 2010 with the inauguration of the new mayors.

In June 2010, the population of Taoyuan County also grew over 2 million and were qualified for being a quasi-municipality since 2011. The county government also sent a proposal to become a special municipality in 2012. Executive Yuan approved the proposal and the special municipality of Taoyuan were formally established on December 25, 2014.

Currently, there are in total six special municipalities under the central government. The special municipalities cover the top five most populous metropolitan areas in Taiwan and over two thirds (2/3) of the national population.

Municipality Metropolitan area Region
Kaohsiung Kaohsiung metropolitan area Southern Taiwan
New Taipei Taipei–Keelung metropolitan area Northern Taiwan
Taichung Taichung–Changhua metropolitan area Central Taiwan
Tainan Tainan metropolitan area Southern Taiwan
Taipei Taipei–Keelung metropolitan area Northern Taiwan
Taoyuan Taoyuan–Zhongli metropolitan area Northern Taiwan

Current Special Municipalities[edit]

There are currently six special municipalities:

Name Population Area (km2) Administrative centre Date of establishment
 Kaohsiung City[II] 2,779,790 2,946.2527 Lingya District[III], Fengshan District[IV] 1979-07-01
 New Taipei City[V] 3,955,777 2,052.5667 Banqiao District[VI] 2010-12-25
 Taichung[VII] 2,702,920 2,214.8968 Xitun District[VIII], Fengyuan District[IX] 2010-12-25
 Tainan[X] 1,883,251 2,191.6531 Anping District[XI], Xinying District[XII] 2010-12-25
 Taipei[XIII] 2,688,140 271.7997 Xinyi District[XIV] 1967-07-01
 Taoyuan[XV] 2,092,977 1,220.9540 Taoyuan District[XVI] 2014-12-25

Their self-governed bodies (executive and legislature) regulated by the Local Government Act are:

Name Executive Legislature
Government Mayor Current Mayor City Council No. of seats
Kaohsiung Kaohsiung City Government Mayor of Kaohsiung Chen Chi-mai Kaohsiung City Council 66
New Taipei New Taipei City Government Mayor of New Taipei Hou You-yi New Taipei City Council 66
Taichung Taichung City Government Mayor of Taichung Lu Shiow-yen Taichung City Council 63
Tainan Tainan City Government Mayor of Tainan Huang Wei-cher Tainan City Council 57
Taipei Taipei City Government Mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-je Taipei City Council 63
Taoyuan Taoyuan City Government Mayor of Taoyuan Cheng Wen-tsan Taoyuan City Council 60

In Taiwanese municipalities, the mayor is the highest-ranking official in charge. The mayor is directly elected by the people registered in the municipality for a duration of four years.

See also[edit]

Overview of administrative divisions of the Republic of China
Republic of China
Free area[i] Mainland area[ii]
Special municipalities[α][iii] Provinces[iv] Not administered[v]
Counties[α] Autonomous municipalities[α][vi]
Districts[β] Mountain
Townships[α][β][vii] Districts[β]
  1. ^ a b c d e f Has an elected executive and an elected legislative council.
  2. ^ a b c Has an appointed district administrator for managing local affairs and carrying out tasks commissioned by superior agency.
  3. ^ Has an elected village administrator for managing local affairs and carrying out tasks commissioned by superior agency.


  1. ^ Also known as the Taiwan area or Tai–Min area (Chinese: 臺閩地區; lit. 'Taiwan–Fujian area')
  2. ^ The mainland area consists of Mainland China, Tibet and (previously) Outer Mongolia
  3. ^ Special municipalities, cities, and county-administered cities are all called shi (Chinese: ; lit. 'city')
  4. ^ Nominal; provincial governments have been abolished
  5. ^ Constitutionally having the same structure as the free area, these are currently under the Chinese Communist Party control with a different structure
  6. ^ Sometimes called cities (Chinese: ) or provincial cities (Chinese: 省轄市) to distinguish them from special municipalities and county-administered cities
  7. ^ There are two types of townships: rural townships or xīang (Chinese: ) and urban townships or zhèn (Chinese: )
  8. ^ Villages in rural townships are known as tsūn (Chinese: ), those in other jurisdictions are known as (Chinese: )

Words in native languages[edit]

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  1. ^ "Local governments". Office of the President Republic of China (Taiwan). Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  2. ^ Atayal residents worried over Taoyuan's upgrade
  1. ^ Sarah Shair-Rosenfield (November 2020). "Taiwan combined" (PDF). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 29 May 2021.