Administrative divisions of the Republic of China

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Administrative divisions
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History of the administrative
divisions of the Republic of China

The Republic of China (ROC), commonly known as Taiwan, currently governs the Taiwan Area, consisting of the four main archipelagos of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and some minor islands. The whole country is divided into two streamlined provinces[1] (Taiwan Province and Fujian Province) and six special municipalities (Kaohsiung, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei and Taoyuan). The two streamlined provinces are further subdivided into 3 provincial cities and 13 counties. All special municipalities, provincial cities and counties are directly under the central government (i.e., Executive Yuan).


Early years

File:ROC Administrative Subdivisions zh-hant.svg The Republic of China was founded on Mainland China in 1912. It used most of the same administrative divisions as the Qing Dynasty but divided Inner Mongolia into four provinces and set up several Yuan-controlled municipalities. After the end of World War II in 1945, Manchuria was reincorporated into the Republic of China as nine provinces. Taiwan and the Pescadores were also acquired by the Republic of China and organized into Taiwan Province after the Retrocession Day. By this time the top-level divisions consisted of 35 provinces, 12 Yuan-controlled municipalities, one special administrative region and two regions (Mongolia and Tibet). After its strategic withdrawal from mainland China during the Chinese Civil War and subsequent arrival in Taiwan in 1948, the jurisdiction of the ROC was restricted to only Taiwan, the Pescadores, and a few offshore islands of Fukien and Chekiang. Chekiang was also soon lost to the communist in 1955. The remaining area is called the "Free Area of the Republic of China" in the Constitution. In most ordinary legislation, the term "Taiwan Area" is used in place of the "Free Area", while Mainland China is referred to as the "Mainland Area".

Territorial disputes

A map showing the island of Taiwan, China and Mongolia. Taiwan and other nearby small islands are highlighted in dark blue and are identified as the "Free Area" of the ROC. China is highlighted in light blue and is identified as an area claimed by the ROC and controlled by the PRC. Mongolia is highlighted in red. Other minor areas are highlighted in different colors for having historically been claimed by the ROC but are now controlled by other countries including Russia, Japan or Pakistan among others.
A map showing the official divisions and territories historically claimed by the Republic of China, along with their status as of 2010.

The Republic of China has never renounced its claim over territory it ruled prior to losing the mainland in 1949. This included all of mainland China, parts of northern Burma, and Tannu Uriankhai (part of which is present-day Tuva in Russia).[citation needed] On May 21, 2012, the Mainland Affairs Council released a press announcement that said that Outer Mongolia is not a part of Republic of China.[2] At the same time, the Republic of China has not recognized any of the changes made by the People's Republic of China to the administrative structure of the mainland.[citation needed] Accordingly, the official first-order divisions of Republic of China remain the historical divisions of China immediately prior to the loss of mainland China. In 1994,[3] the Republic of China consisted of 35 provinces, 1 special administrative region, 2 regions (Tibet and Outer Mongolia), 14 special municipalities, 14 leagues, and 4 special banners. For second-order divisions (under provinces and special administrative regions), there are counties, provincial cities (56), bureaus (34) and management bureaus (7). Under provincial-level municipalities there are districts, and under leagues there are banners (127).

Although the administration of pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian (2000–2008) did not actively claim sovereignty over all of China, the national boundaries of the ROC have not been redrawn.[citation needed] Thus, the claimed area of the ROC continues to include mainland China, several off-shore islands, and Taiwan. Beginning in 2005 the ROC Yearbook, under Chen's administration, ceased displaying official administrative divisions in mainland China.[4] It recognized two provinces (Taiwan and Fukien) and two special municipalities (Taipei and Kaohsiung). The current President Ma Ying-jeou reasserted the ROC's claim to be the sole legitimate government of China and the claim that mainland China is part of ROC's territory.[5] He does not, however, actively seek reunification, and prefers to maintain an ambiguous status quo in order to improve relations with the PRC.[6]

In practice, although ROC law still formally recognizes residents of mainland China as citizens of the ROC, it makes a distinction between persons who have household residency in the "Free area of the Republic of China" and those that do not, meaning that persons outside the area administered by the ROC must apply for special travel documents and cannot vote in ROC elections.

Changes to divisions on Taiwan

All 12 original special municipalities and the special administrative regions were located in mainland China, and have mostly been repealed by the PRC since the government of the ROC retreated to Taiwan. Since 1949, the ROC government has made some changes in the area under its control. The two provincial governments were streamlined and their much of their functions transferred to the central or county governments. Six direct-controlled special municipalities have been created out of territory initially belonging to Taiwan Province.

Name Notes
Fujian Province The provincial capital was moved from Fuzhou to Jincheng in 1949. Government was streamlined in 1956.
Taiwan Province The provincial capital was moved from Taipei to Zhongxing New Village in 1956. Government streamlined in 1998.
Hainan Special Administrative Region SAR Government was streamlined in 1972, repealed in 2003. South China Sea Islands were transferred to Kaohsiung City in 1979.
Kaohsiung City Formerly a provincial city of Taiwan Province, was elevated as a special municipality in 1979. In 2010, a new Kaohsiung special municipality was established by merging former Kaohsiung County of Taiwan Province with the existing Kaohsiung City.
New Taipei City Formerly Taipei County of Taiwan Province, was elevated as a special municipality in 2010.
Taichung City Was established by merging Taichung provincial city and Taichung County of Taiwan Province in 2010.
Tainan City Was established by merging Tainan provincial city and Tainan County of Taiwan Province in 2010.
Taipei City Formerly the capital of Taiwan Province, was elevated as a special municipality in 1967.
Taoyuan City Formerly Taoyuan County of Taiwan Province, was elevated as a special municipality in 2014.

This brought the top-level divisions of the ROC to its current state: 2 streamlined provinces and 6 special municipalities; and under the provinces, 13 counties and three provincial cities.[7]

Special considerations

Streamlining of Provinces

Since 1949, the most controversial part of the political division system of the ROC has been the existence of Taiwan Province, as its existence was part of a larger controversy over the political status of Taiwan. Since 1997, most of the duties and powers of Taiwan Provincial Government have been transferred to the national government of the Republic of China, through amendments to the constitution. The much smaller Fujian province, consisting of Kinmen and Lienchiang, has had most of its authority passed off to its two counties.

Joint Service Centers of Executive Yuan

The central government operates three regional Joint Service Centers (區域聯合服務中心) outside Taipei as outposts of the government ministries in the Executive Yuan, similar to the cross-departmental mode of working in the Government Offices in England. These regions, laid out the Comprehensive National Spatial Development Plan for Taiwan (臺灣地區國土綜合開發計劃), can be considered a de facto level of government, perhaps equivalent to de jure provinces or similar to the English regions. There is one regional service center for each of the Southern Taiwan Region (with the center in Kaohsiung), the Central Taiwan Region (Taichung), and the Eastern Taiwan Region (Hualien). The Northern Taiwan Region is served by Taipei, the central government's administrative headquarters and de facto capital.


There has been some criticism of the current administrative scheme as being inefficient and not conducive to regional planning. In particular, most of the administrative cities are much smaller than the actual metropolitan areas, and there are no formal means for coordinating policy between an administrative city and its surrounding areas.

Before 2008, the likelihood of consolidation was low. Many of the cities had political demographics which were very different from their surrounding counties, making the prospect of consolidation highly politically charged. For example, while the Kuomintang argued that combining Taipei City, Taipei County, and Keelung City into a metropolitan Taipei region would allow for better regional planning, the Democratic Progressive Party argued that this was merely an excuse to eliminate the government of Taipei County, which it had at times controlled, by swamping it with votes from Taipei City and Keelung City, which tended to vote Kuomintang.

On 1 October 2007, Taipei County was upgraded to a quasi-municipality (準直轄市) on the same level as Kaohsiung City and Taipei City.[8] This allowed the county to have the organizational and budgetary framework of a de jure municipality, but it was still formally styled as a county. Taichung County and Taichung City lobbied the central government for similar status. Taoyuan County was also upgraded to a quasi-municipality on 1 January 2011, as its population was above 2 million on the date of elevation.[9]

Under President Ma Ying-jeou's administration, the central government has reorganized more counties and cities.[10] The following mergers and promotions were approved in 2009 and became effective on 25 December 2010.[11][12]

Proposals for ROC municipalities and counties

Three proposals were not approved in 2009 but may be considered at a later date.

Proposals Changes June 2012
Population - Combine
Current Area
(km²) - Combine
Map (before) Map (after)
A Hsinchu City + Hsinchu County = Hsinchu County
(新竹市 + 新竹縣 = 新竹縣)
942,788 1,531.6864 Taiwan ROC political division map Hsinchu City.svg Taiwan ROC political division map Hsinchu County.svg Taiwan ROC political division map Hsinchu City (propose).svg
B Chiayi City + Chiayi County = Chiayi County
(嘉義市 + 嘉義縣 = 嘉義縣)
806,734 1,961.6956 Taiwan ROC political division map Chiayi City.svg Taiwan ROC political division map Chiayi County.svg Taiwan ROC political division map Chiayi City (propose).svg
C Taipei City + New Taipei City + Keelung City = Taipei City
(臺北市 + 新北市 + 基隆市 = 臺北市)
6,967,752 2,457.1244 Taiwan ROC political division map Taipei City.svg Taiwan ROC political division map Taipei County.svg 70px Taiwan ROC political division map Taipei City (propose).svg

Structural hierarchy

Administrative divisions since 2014
about this map
Level 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Special municipality
(直轄市 zhíxiáshì) (6)
Mountain Indigenous District
(山地原住民區 shāndì yuánzhùmín qū) (6)

(區 qū) (164)

Urban Village
(里 lǐ)
(鄰 lín)
(省 shěng) (2)
Provincial city
(市 shì) (3)
(縣 xiàn) (13)
County-controlled city
(縣轄市 xiànxiáshì) (14)
Urban Township
(鎮 zhèn) (38)
Rural Township
(鄉 xiāng) (122)

Mountain Indigenous Township
(山地鄉 shāndì xiāng) (24)

Rural Village
(村 cūn)
Total 22 368 7,851 147,785
  1. Since the provinces are streamlined, special municipalities are usually counted with provincial cities and counties.
  2. In Chinese, all special municipalities, provincial cities, and county-controlled cities are all referred to as 市 (shì) in their full official names.
  3. Provincial cities are sometimes called 省轄市 (shěngxiáshì) to distinguish them from the other two types of cities.

Under the ROC administrative scheme, some cities and counties may share the same name but are independent administrations; this occurs with Chiayi City and Chiayi County, and Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County. Generally, special municipalities have the largest administrative area of all three levels of cities, then provincial cities, and finally county-controlled cities, in that order.

Special municipalities

Special municipalities (Chinese: 直轄市; pinyin: zhíxiáshì) are a top-level division in the Republic of China (Taiwan), directly governed by the Executive Yuan. A place with more than 1.25 million residents and with political, economical or cultural importance may become a special municipality.

Provincial cities

Provincial cities (Chinese: ; pinyin: shì) are cities one level lower than special municipalities. Formerly governed by the provinces, they have been directly governed by the Executive Yuan ever since the provinces were streamlined. A place with 0.5 million and 1.25 million residents and with political, economical or cultural importance may become a provincial city.


Counties (Chinese: ; pinyin: xiàn) are one of the administrative division levels under provinces. Formerly governed by the provinces, they have been directly governed by the Executive Yuan ever since the provinces were streamlined. A county with more than two million residents can acquire a status equal to a special municipality.

  • There are 13 counties in the ROC, 11 counties located mainly in the island of Taiwan.

Lower-level governance structures

The 22 main divisions in the country are further divided into 368 subdivisions. A County may divided into rural townships (Chinese: ; pinyin: xiāng), urban townships (Chinese: ; pinyin: zhèn) and county-controlled cities (Chinese: 縣轄市; pinyin: xiànxiáshì). A place with more than 150,000 residents may become a county-controlled city. Special municipalities and provincial cities are divided into districts (Chinese: ; pinyin: ).

List of divisions


The romanization used for ROC placenames above the county level is a modified form of Wade–Giles, ignoring the apostrophes and hyphens of the original, thus yielding "Taipei" instead of "T'ai-pei" and "Yilan" instead of "I-lan", for example. Some postal romanizations also exist, like "Keelung" and "Kinmen". In 2002, the ROC adopted Tongyong Pinyin as its national standard for romanization. Most townships and county-controlled cities changed their romanization to Tongyong Pinyin at that time. However, some local administrations, like Taipei and Taichung, decided to use Hanyu Pinyin. In 2009, Tongyong Pinyin was replaced by Hanyu Pinyin as the ROC government standard.[13][14] Currently, most of the divisions are romanized by Hanyu Pinyin system, but some local governments still use Tongyong Pinyin, like Kaohsiung. In 2011, the ROC Ministry of the Interior restored historical romanizations for two towns, Lukang and Tamsui.

See also


  1. Hwang, Jim (October 1999). "Gone with the Times". Taiwan Review. Retrieved 2012-01-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 有關外蒙古是否為中華民國領土問題說明新聞參考資料
  3. 中華民國各省(市)縣(市)行政區域代碼
  4. 中華民國年鑑九十五年版
  5. "Ma refers to China as ROC territory in magazine interview". Taipei Times. 2008-10-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. MacArtney, Jane (2008-08-30). "President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan has progress making ties with China". The Times. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 中華民國國情簡介 政府組織
  8. "歷時28年 臺北縣今升格為準直轄市 (After 28 years, Taipei County today is promoted to quasi-municipality status)". 國立教育廣播電台新聞. 2007-10-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "升格為準直轄市 / 元旦改制日 桃園人口須維持200萬)". Liberty Times. 2010-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "三都十五縣 馬指示漸進推動 (Ma directs gradual progression towards 3 municipalities and 15 counties)". Liberty Times. 2008-12-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "縣市升格 北中高過關 南縣市補考 (Promotion of Cities and Counties: Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung approved; Tainan awaits further examination)". Liberty Times. 2009-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "臺灣再添直轄市". Wikinews. 2009-06-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Hanyu Pinyin to be standard system in 2009". Taipei Times. 2008-09-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Gov't to improve English-friendly environment". The China Post. 2008-09-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links