China Administration Factsheet
In this factsheet, we summarise the different levels of administrative divisions in China.
Province-Level Administrative Divisions
At the highest level, the People's Republic of China can be divided into 34 province-level administrative divisions, consisting of 23 provinces (省), 4 municipalities (直辖市), 5 autonomous regions (自治区), and 2 special administrative regions (特别行政区).
Municipalities refer to cities with provincial-level power that directly report to the central government rather than to a provincial government, as is typically the case with regular Chinese cities. The four municipalities are Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin.
Autonomous regions refer to provinces that have greater autonomy (to some extent) in terms of legislature and governance, including the autonomy to formulate self-government regulations and other separate regulations. Autonomous regions typically have a large presence of ethnic minority (i.e. non-Han Chinese) groups. The five autonomous regions are the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the Tibet Autonomous Region, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Special administrative regions (SARs) have the greatest autonomy out of all of China's province-level administrative divisions. The two SARs are the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macau Special Administrative Region.
See our China Provinces Factsheet for a description of each province and overall province rankings based on population, GDP, and average disposable income.
City Level Administrative Divisions
Each province-level administrative division can then be divided into different cities, with the exception of the four municipalities (i.e. Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin) and two SARs (i.e. Hong Kong and Macau), which are themselves already cities geographically.
See our China City Classifications and Income Factsheet for further information on how Chinese cities are classified.
Sub-City Level Administrative Divisions
Each city is further divided into predominantly rural counties, each called a Xian (县) and/or predominantly urban districts, each called a Qu (区).
The more rural areas of each Xian or Qu can be further classified as Zhen (镇), referring to the relatively developed rural areas (e.g. rural town centres), or Xiang (乡), referring to the most rural areas within rural areas (e.g. farmland).
The more urban areas of each Xian or Qu can be further classified by Jiedao (街道), typically referring to main roads and streets.