The Differences between County, County-level City and Municipal District in the System of Administrative Divisions in China

Biao Zhao (Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China)
Kaiyong Wang (Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China)

Article ID: 3739



Administrative division is an important means of political power reorganization and management, resource integration and optimal allocation, which profoundly shapes the spatial layout of urban development in China. To clarify and compare differences between counties, county-level cities and municipal districts is the primary premise for the study of administrative division and urban development. This paper analyzes the institutional differences between counties and county-level cities, as well as counties, county-level cities and municipal districts, from the aspects of organizational structure, urban construction planning, land management, finance, taxation and public services. The research shows that the establishment of counties, county-level cities and municipal districts adapt to different levels and stages of economic and social development,and the conversion from county to county-level city and the conversion from county (or county-level city) to municipal district are both important transformation ways to change their administrative systems, which has different management system and operation pattern. At the same time, the transformation of county-level administrative region is also a “double-edged sword”, we should think about the administrative system as a whole to decide whether it should be adjusted, and effectively respond to the actual needs of local economic and social development.


Administrative division; County; County-level city; Difference; Municipal district; Political geography; China

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