List of Chinese provinces and regions
This article is a travel topic
China's system of political geography differs somewhat from that in other countries. Most of it is broken up into provinces (省), but there are several other geographic units of the same hierarchical rank as provinces:
A full list of province-level divisions is:
Taiwan is a special case. At the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, the Communists held most of China and the defeated Nationalists held only Taiwan, the Pescadores and a few islands in the South China Sea. That situation continues to this day; Taiwan has had a separate government for 60 years. While listed as a province in the P.R.C., from the practical traveler's point of view, it is a separate country with its own visas, currency and so on.
Some of this structure repeats at a lower level. Provinces and regions are generally broken up into prefectures and prefecture-level cities. Where a given minority or minorities predominate, the prefecture can be an Autonomous Prefecture (自治州) for the various ethnic groups. Within prefectures and cities, autonomous or otherwise, there are also Autonomous Counties (自治县) depending on their ethnic composition.
Within a province or autonomous region political geography can be broken down into:
For example, in the largest-to-smallest order generally used in China: Guangdong Province - Dongguan City - Qingxi Town - Xie Kang Village
There is some ambiguity when one uses place names in China. For example "Chengdu" can mean either the city itself or the entire prefecture which includes significant amounts of countryside. Moreover, when a Chinese says their hometown is Chengdu, it might mean his family and his identity papers are from there even if he actually lives and grew up elsewhere.
There are also Special Economic Zones (SEZ, 经济特区) set up to encourage development and foreign investment with tax concessions and other government measures. These began in 1980 as a provincial government initiative supported by Deng Xiaoping. SEZs tend to be prosperous, have large expatriate communities, and have more Western restaurants and facilities. They are:
Development in these areas has been phenomenal. In 1978, Shenzhen (next to Hong Kong) and Zhuhai (next to Macau) were groups of fishing villages, with a population of a few hundred thousand each. By 2008, Shenzhen had a population of 10 million and Zhuhai approached 2 million. The other SEZs have also undergone enormous changes. Pudong was mostly farmland in 1990, but now has more skyscrapers than New York.
There are also many other areas where investment is encouraged. The national government started a program in 1984 that opened up 14 coastal cities, and all the capitals of inland provinces or autonomous regions, for investment. There are also many provincial, city, county and township-level economic development programs. However, the SEZs remain the most developed areas with the most advanced administrative systems for investment and spurring economic development.
Treaty ports and concessions
When Europeans came to China by sea, from the late 1500s on, the Emperor strictly controlled their trade and movements. For several centuries, the only Western base was the Portuguese colony of Macau, trade was permitted only at Canton (Guangzhou) under a variety of restrictions.
After the Chinese defeat in the first Opium War, in 1842, much of that changed. Many of the restrictions were removed and five cities were opened to Western trade — Guangzhou (then called Canton) in Guangdong, Xiamen (Amoy) and Fuzhou in Fujian, and Ningbo and Shanghai in Zhejiang. These were known as "treaty ports" because it was a treaty that opened them up. By the same treaty, Britain acquired a Far Eastern base of its own, Hong Kong.
Various Western powers also took pieces of China, called concessions, and administered them. Some of the treaties specifically provided that Chinese law did not apply in these areas, or to foreigners in China. To Western powers, this was an obvious precaution against a barbaric system; to many Chinese, it was a deeply felt insult. Several nations had concessions in Shanghai; today the old French Concession is one of the more elegant tourist attractions. Other areas such as Hankou (part of Wuhan), Gulangyu in Xiamen, Shamian Dao in Guangzhou and parts of Tianjin also had concessions for several nations. These historic areas have been or are being remodeled and have become very popular tourist attractions for both Chinese and foreigners.
In some areas, only one nation had a concession. These included:
This is not a complete list.