China's administrative units are currently based on a three-tier system, dividing the nation into provinces, counties and townships:
The country is divided into provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government;
A province or an autonomous region is subdivided into autonomous prefectures, counties, autonomous counties and /or cities;
A county or an autonomous county is subdivided into townships, ethnic townships and/or towns.
Municipalities directly under the Central Government and large cities are subdivided into districts and counties; autonomous prefectures are subdivided into counties, autonomous counties and cities. Autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties are all ethnic autonomous areas.
The Constitution specifically empowers the state to establish special administrative regions when necessary. A special administrative region is a local administrative area directly under the Central Government.
At the moment, China is divided into 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities directly under the Central Government and 2 special administrative regions (see the following table 1).
China's Provinces, Autonomous Regions, Centrally Administered Municipalities and Special Administrative Regions (Table 1)
||Seat of Government
(10,000 sq km)
|Tibet Autonomous Region
|Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
|Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
|Hong Kong Special
||2,228(at the end of 2000)
*At the end of 2001
Located to the southeast of the Chinese mainland opposite Fujian Province, the island province of Taiwan is flanked by the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Taiwan Straits to the west. Covering an area of 36,000 sq km, Taiwan includes Taiwan Island, the Penghu Islands and 80 other smaller neighboring islands and islets. Taiwan was called Yizhou or Liuqiu in ancient times. Records of Chinese people developing Taiwan in earlier periods are found in many historical documents. Beginning from the mid 12th century, the Chinese governments of different dynasties set up administrative bodies to exercise jurisdiction over Taiwan. The social development of Taiwan continued according to Chinese cultural traditions even during its occupation by Japan after the war of 1894. The Chinese government restored its administrative organs in Taiwan Province after victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan in 1945. On the eve of the founding of the PRC in 1949, the Kuomintang authorities retreated from the mainland to Taiwan. In 1950, the Korean War broke out, and the Untied States dispatched its Seventh Fleet to invade Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits. In 1954, the government of the United States and the Taiwan authorities signed a "Mutual Defense Treaty," bringing about the separation of Taiwan from the mainland.
The government of the PRC has made unremitting efforts to solve the Taiwan issue and realize the reunification of the country. In February 1972, when President Richard M. Nixon of the United States visited China, the two sides issued the Shanghai Communiqué. On January 1, 1979, the United States established official diplomatic relations with China, formally recognizing the government of the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China and Taiwan as a part of China and, at the same time announcing the "cessation of diplomatic relations" with the Taiwan authorities, the annulment of the "Mutual Defense Treaty" and the withdrawal of all its military personnel from Taiwan. In these historical conditions, the Chinese government, out of consideration for the interests and future of the whole nation, put forward the basic policy of "peaceful reunification, and one country, two systems" in accordance with the principle of respecting history and reality, seeking truth from facts and taking into account the interests of all sides. The main points of the basic and related policies are:
China will do its best to achieve peaceful reunification, but will not commit itself to ruling out the use of force; will actively promote people-to-people contacts and economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, and start direct trade, postal, air and shipping services as soon as possible; achieve reunification through peaceful negotiations and, on the premise of the one-China principle, any matter can be negotiated. After reunification, the policy of "one country, two systems" will be practiced, with the main body of China (the mainland) continuing with its socialist system, and Taiwan maintaining its capitalist system for a long period to come. After reunification, Taiwan will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, and the Central Government will not send troops or administrative personnel to be stationed in Taiwan. The resolution of the Taiwan issue is an internal affair of China, which should be achieved by the Chinese themselves, and there is no call for interference by foreign forces. The aforementioned principles and policies embody the basic stand and spirit of adhering to the one-China principle, and fully respect the Taiwan compatriots' wish to govern and administer Taiwan by themselves.
Since the publication by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on New Year's Day, 1979 of the Appeal to Compatriots in Taiwan, the Chinese government has resolutely implemented the basic policy of "peaceful reunification, and one country, two systems," advocated national reunification through negotiations, proposed that the two sides start direct trade, postal, air and shipping services ("three direct links" for short), and adopted sincere measures on our own initiative to promote the development of the relations between the two sides. Economically, it has opened its doors widely to welcome businesspeople from Taiwan to make investments and engage in trade activities on the mainland, and protected their legal rights and interests. In addition, the Chinese government has actively promoted people-to-people contacts and bilateral exchanges in the fields of science and technology, culture, sports, academia and journalism; and authorized the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, a non-governmental organization, to establish relations with Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, and engage in talks on economic and routine affairs. In 1992, the two Associations reached an agreement, expressed orally, that both adhere to the one-China principle. The "Wang (Daohan)-Koo (Chen-fu) talks" held in April 1993, in Singapore, between the leaders of these two organizations signaled a historically important step forward in the development of relations across the Straits. In October 1998, Koo Chen-fu paid a visit to Shanghai and Beijing, and reached with Wang Daohan four points of common understanding on dialogues between the two organizations on political, economic and other issues.
On January 30, 1995, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President of China Jiang Zemin delivered an important speech titled, "Continue to Fight for Fulfilment of the Great Cause of Reunification of the Motherland." In his speech, Jiang further expounded on the connotations of the policy of "peaceful reunification of the motherland, and one country, two systems," and put forward eight propositions, such as adherence to the principle of one China; peaceful negotiations between the two parties on both sides of the Taiwan Straits may be held step by step; China will do its best to achieve peaceful reunification, but will not promise not to use force; economic exchange and cooperation between both sides should be promoted; both sides should jointly inherit and carry forward the fine traditions of Chinese culture; hopes should be placed on Taiwan compatriots; all political parties and personages from different walks of life in Taiwan are welcome to visit the mainland and exchange opinions on the relations between the two sides and on peaceful reunification; and leaders of both sides should exchange visits in their proper capacities.
The above eight propositions fully embody the consistency and persistence of the CPC and the Chinese government on resolution of the Taiwan issue, and embody their determination and sincerity to develop cross-Straits relations and promote the reunification of the motherland. These suggestions have been warmly welcomed by the Chinese people at home and abroad, and aroused great attention among the international community. Following China's resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao, the Chinese people throughout the country eagerly hope that the Taiwan issue will be solved as soon as possible to realize the complete reunification of China.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
The area constituting Hong Kong is located on the southeast coast of China, east of the mouth of the Pearl River and bordering Shenzhen City in Guangdong Province. It consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, with a total area of 1,092 sq km. Hong Kong has been Chinese territory since ancient times, and was occupied by Britain after the Opium War of 1840. In accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong signed on December 19, 1984, the two governments held a hand-over ceremony on July 1, 1997, announcing the resumption of sovereignty by China over Hong Kong. Thus the common, long-cherished wish of the Chinese people to recover Hong Kong was fulfilled. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the PRC was formally established, and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, adopted in April 1990 at the Third Session of the Seventh NPC, came into effect. The Basic Law makes clear and definite specifications on a high degree of autonomy, and the political, economic, cultural and educational systems of the HKSAR.
-The Chinese government carries out the basic policies of "one country, two systems," "administration of Hong Kong by the Hong Kong people" and "a high degree of autonomy" in Hong Kong. "One country, two systems" refers to the fact that in China a unified country, the mainland, practices the socialist system, and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years; "administration of Hong Kong by the Hong Kong people" means that the HKSAR is administered by the Hong Kong people on their own, and the central authorities shall not send officials to the HKSAR to fill local official posts; and "a high degree of autonomy" means that apart from foreign and national defense affairs, which should be administered by the central authorities, the HKSAR shall fully enjoy the power of decision over matters within its autonomous jurisdiction, including executive, legislative, independent judicial and final adjudication powers.
-A democratic political system is practiced in the HKSAR. Its major organs of power are the Chief Executive, the Government, the Legislative Council and the Court of Final Appeal. The Chief Executive of the HKSAR shall be the head of the HKSAR, as well as the head of the HKSAR government. His or her dual status gives him or her extensive functions and powers. The Chief Executive shall be selected from among residents of the HKSAR by election or through consultations held locally, and be appointed by the Central Government. The term of office of the Chief Executive shall be five years. He or she may serve for not more than two consecutive terms.
-A free economic system is practiced in the HKSAR. The operation mechanisms of this economic system are mainly manifested in the fields of finance, banking, trade, industry and commerce, real estate, shipping and civil aviation. As a separate customs territory, the HKSAR may, using the name "Hong Kong, China," join the WTO and other relevant international organizations and international trade agreements.
-The HKSAR shall, on its own, work out policies on education, culture, science and technology, medical care and sports. Non-governmental organizations in various fields in the HKSAR may maintain and develop their relationships with relevant organizations of other countries and regions, and with international organizations. They also may participate in relevant activities in the name of "Hong Kong, China."
In the four-odd years since its founding, the HKSAR was affected by the Asian financial crisis and influenced by the global economic depression. But under the leadership of the Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa, a series of problems and events which had great influence on Hong Kong's politics, economy and society were handled soundly by the HKSAR government, safeguarding the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. Now Hong Kong is still the center of international finance, trade, shipping, material exchange and tourism and will continue to demonstrate its good future to the other parts of the world.
Macao Special Administrative Region
Located west of the Pearl River estuary in Guangdong Province, 40 nautical miles west of Hong Kong, Macao's 24 sq km of area comprise the Macao Peninsula, Taipa Island and Coloane Island. Macao has been a part of Chinese territory since ancient times. In 1553, the Portuguese bribed local government officials in Guangdong to gain permission to drop anchor in Macao's harbor and engage in trade. In 1557, the Portuguese began to settle nearby. In the period following the Opium War of 1840, taking advantage of the weakness of the Qing government, the Portuguese successively seized Taipa and Coloane islands to the south of the Macao Peninsula.
The government of the PRC has consistently maintained that at the appropriate time a peaceful, negotiated solution to this problem inherited from the past should be found. Between June 1986 and March 1987, delegations from the two governments held four rounds of talks. Finally, on April 13, 1987, the "Joint Declaration on the Question of Macao by the Governments of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Portugal" was formally signed in Beijing.
On December 20, 1999, the Chinese and Portuguese governments held a hand-over ceremony as scheduled in accordance with the "Joint Declaration on the Question of Macao," marking the resumption of sovereignty by China over Macao. At the same time, the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) was formally established, and the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region, adopted in March 1993 at the First Session of the Eighth NPC, came into effect. The Chinese government implements the basic policies of "one country, two systems," "administration of Macao by the Macao people" and "a high degree of autonomy" in Macao, as stipulated by the Basic Law. The MSAR enjoys a high degree of autonomy, and its political, economic, cultural and educational systems are similar to those of the HKSAR.
Since the founding of the MSAR, Ho Hau-Wah, the first Chief Executive, and the government of the MSAR have scrupulously abided by their duties, promoting Macao's economic development and social stability and making the situation of public order much better than the past.
China had 663 cities by the end of 2000, of which 13 had populations of more than two million each in the urban area; 27, between one and two million; 53, between 500,000 and one million; 218, between 200,000 and 500,000; and 352, less than 200,000. Some of these are industrial cities that burgeoned along with the construction of key state projects, some are port cities with favorable conditions for the opening-up, and some are famous historical and cultural cities.
(Unit: 10,000 persons)
Shanghai 986.2 Beijing 760.7 Chongqing 660.9 Tianjin 532.5 Wuhan 441.1 Harbin 435.0 Shengyang 433.3 Guangzhou 436.1 Chengdu 345.9 Nanjing 309.5 Changchun 287.8 Xi'an 285.8 Dalian 275.4
In the course of city planning, China implements the principle of "strictly controlling the size of large cities, developing medium-sized cities rationally and developing small cities actively." Medium-sized cities with populations of less than 500,000 and small cities with populations of less than 200,000 grew rapidly from the 1980s. And the large cities with populations of over one million have developed satellite cities and towns in a planned and positive way.
Beijing Beijing is a municipality directly under the Central Government and the capital of the PRC, with an urban population of 7.61 million. It is not only the nation's political center, but also its cultural, scientific and educational center, and a key transportation hub. Situated on the north edge of the North China Plain, it is sheltered by chains of mountains to the west, north and east. Its southeastern part is a plain. Beijing's temperate continental climate produces four clearly contrasted seasons: a short spring, rainy and humid summer, long and cold winter, and a very pleasant autumn.
Beijing emerged as a city as far back as the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century-770 B.C.), when it was known as Ji. During the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), it was the capital of the State of Yan. Ji remained a city of strategic importance and a trade center for the north for well over a thousand years. Then, in the early 10th century, it became the secondary capital of the Liao Dynasty under the name of Yanjing. Between 1115 and 1911, it served in succession as the capital of the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, thus becoming a storehouse of Chinese culture, and leaving many superb historical legacies, such as the Tiananmen Gatetower, the symbol of Beijing as well as of China; Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world; the former Imperial Palace (the "Forbidden City"), the largest and best-preserved ancient architectural complex in the world; and the Great Wall at Badaling, one of the "seven wonders of the world." Of these, the former Imperial Palace, the Great Wall, the site of Peking Man at Zhoukoudian, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven have been put on the World Cultural Heritage list by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Since 1949, when Beijing was designated as the capital of the PRC, especially since the 1980s, the urban construction of Beijing has developed at a high speed and tremendous changes have taken place in the city's appearance. Now Beijing is really an international metropolis with many broad roads and tall buildings, remaining its feature of an ancient capital and also demonstrating the modern gracefulness.
Shanghai Shanghai, a municipality directly under the Central Government, is China's largest city, with an urban population of 9.86 million. Advantageously located, Shanghai is halfway down China's mainland coastline, where the Yangtze River empties into the sea. An important comprehensive industrial base and harbor, Shanghai plays an essential role in the national economy. Major industries include metallurgy, machine-building, shipbuilding, chemicals, electronics, meters, textiles and other light industries, in addition to its highly developed commerce, banking and ocean shipping industry. The Pudong New Zone, separated from the old city by the Huangpu River, is now undergoing vigorous development and construction. The opening and development of the Pudong New Zone is intended to build it, within several decades, into a modern, multi-functional, export-oriented district, on a par with the world's best. This will lay the foundation for the transformation of Shanghai into an international economic, banking and trade center, and a modern international metropolis.
Tianjin Another municipality directly under the Central Government, Tianjin is a major industrial and commercial city in north China, with an urban population of 5.33 million. About 120 km from Beijing, Tianjin is an important port for ocean and offshore shipping, and foreign trade. Tianjin's traditional industries include iron and steel, machine-building, chemicals, electric power, textiles, construction materials, paper-making and foodstuffs, plus some rising industries such as shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing, petroleum exploitation and processing, and the production of tractors, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, watches, TVs and cameras.
Chongqing Also a municipality directly under the Central Government, Chongqing is the largest industrial and commercial center in southwest China, and a hub of land and water transportation in the upper Yangtze valley, with an urban population of 6.61 million. Chongqing is a comprehensive industrial city, with advanced iron and steel, chemicals, electric power, automobile manufacturing, machine-building, shipbuilding, construction materials, textiles, foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals industries.