Direct-controlled municipality of the People's Republic of China

Direct-controlled municipality of the People's Republic of China
Municipality (Zhixiashi)
China municipalities numbered.svg
Simplified Chinese 直辖市
Traditional Chinese 直轄市

This article is part of the series:
Administrative divisions of the
People's Republic of China

History of the political divisions of China
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Municipality (Chinese: 直辖市; pinyin: zhíxiáshì) also translated as Direct-controlled municipality or municipality directly under the central government is the highest level classification for cities used by People's Republic of China.



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 Occupation. These cities were first called special municipalities/cities (Chinese: 特別市; pinyin: Tébíeshì), but were later renamed Yuan-controlled municipalities (simplified Chinese: 院辖市; traditional Chinese: 院轄市; pinyin: Yùanxíashì), then direct-controlled municipalities (simplified Chinese: 直辖市; traditional Chinese: 直轄市; pinyin: 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.[1] 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.[2] In July 1953, Harbin was restored to municipality status, along with Changchun.[3] 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 in 1997 with a much enlarged area. Tianjin was also temporarily reverted to sub-provincial city status around the 1960s.

Position in hierarchy

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)
  2. Prefecture-level cities (地级市) including sub-provincial cities
  3. County-level cities (县级市) 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).[4] 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

ISO[5] Division name Simp. Hanzi Hanyu Pinyin Abbr. Region Population[6] Area (km²) Density (/km²) Divisions City seat
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 (东城区)
CN-12 Municipality of Tianjin 天津市 Tiānjīn Shì jīn North 12,938,224 11,760 1,100 List (13 districts & 3 counties) Heping District (和平区)
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 (黄浦区)
CN-50 Municipality of Chongqing 重庆市 Chóngqìng Shì Southwest 28,846,170 82,300 350 List (19 districts, 15 counties, & 4 autonomous counties) Yuzhong District (渝中区)

List of defunct municipalities

Name Simp. Hanzi Pinyin Abbr. Region Current province City seat Administration period
City of Nanjing 南京市 Nánjīng Shì 宁 níng East Jiangsu Xuanwu District (玄武区) 1927–1952
City of Qingdao 青岛市 Qīngdǎo Shì 青 qīng East Shandong Shinan District (市南区) 1927–1949
City of Xi'an 西安市 Xī'ān Shì 鎬 hào Northwest Shaanxi Weiyang District (未央区) 1927–1954
City of Guangzhou 广州市 Guǎngzhōu Shì 穗 suì South Central Guangdong Yuexiu District (越秀区) 1927–1954
City of Hankou (Wuhan) 汉口市 (武汉市) Hànkǒu Shì (Wǔhàn Shì) 汉 hàn South Central Hubei Jiang'an District (江岸区) 1927–1949
City of Harbin 哈尔滨市 Hāěrbīn Shì 哈 hā Northeast Heilongjiang Nangang District (南岗区) 1927–1949, 1953–1954
City of Dalian 大连市 Dàlián Shì 连 lián Northeast Liaoning Xigang District (西岗区) 1927–1949, 1950–1954
City of Shenyang 沈阳市 Shěnyáng Shì 沈 shěn Northeast Liaoning Shenhe District (沈河区) 1929–1954
City of Anshan 鞍山市 Ānshān Shì 鞍 ān Northeast Liaoning Tiedong District (铁东区) 1949–1954
City of Benxi 本溪市 Běnxī Shì 本 běn Northeast Liaoning Pingshan District (平山区) 1949–1954
City of Fushun 抚顺市 Fǔshùn Shì 抚 fǔ Northeast Liaoning Xinfu District (新抚区) 1949–1954
City of Changchun 长春市 Chángchūn Shì 春 chūn Northeast Jilin Nanguan District (南关区) 1953–1954


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