Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by David S.G. Goodman
Administrative territory in China is the national system of administrative divisions or governing areas below the central government. The fundamental local level of government, the county, was established in the early dynastic era. The province, which defines common political maps of China, emerged in its modern form more than 700 years ago. The deep history and continuity of China’s administrative territories belie the reality that every dynasty and modern regime has made adjustments to the subnational territories, including periodic major changes, in relation to political interests and economic goals. Among the contemporary levels of territorial administration in China, province, prefecture, county and town or township, and village, the province is the main meso-level of administrative territory, whereas the county has served as the main unit of local government, social life and cultural identification over the longue durée. For these reasons, this chapter introduces the territorial administrative system especially in relation to the province and the county, and major changes to the county in relation to widespread urbanization since the 1980s.
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