Autonomous Regions of China

A lake in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, China.
A lake in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, China.

China is the third or fourth largest country by total area. It is approximately 3.7 million square miles. The country is subdivided into 22 provinces and five autonomous regions with several municipalities and other administrative regions. The regions are the first-level administration divisions. Each of the autonomous regions has a local government and more legislative rights compared to the Chinese provinces. Autonomous regions are considered minority regions with a high population of a specific minority ethnic group.

Autonomous Regions


Guangxi has been an autonomous region since 1958. The term Guang means “expanse.” The region is divided into 14 prefecture-level divisions. The prefecture-divisions are further divided into 110 county-level divisions. Guangxi is the most populated autonomous region in China with a population of about 46 million people. Han Chinese is the largest ethnic group with over 90% of the largest ethnic minority in China, Zhuang, also living in the region. Guangxi is an important agricultural region with 85% of world’s star anise grown in the region.

Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia is located in the north of China and contains much of China’s border with Mongolia. It was established in 1947 and is China’s third-largest subdivision with an area of approximately 463,000 square miles. Inner Mongolia has a population of 24.7 million people or 1.84% of the total Mainland China’s population. Han Chinese is the largest ethnic group in the region followed by Mongols. The region is divided into 12 prefecture-level divisions. The prefecture-level divisions are further divided into 10s county-level divisions. Inner Mongolia is endowed with resources especially coal, natural gas, and cashmere.


Xinjiang is a provincial-level autonomous region located in the northwest region of China. It is the largest administrative division in China. Xinjiang spans over 0.64 million square miles and contains the disputed Aksai Chin. The region is divided into 13 prefecture-level divisions, of which four are cities. The prefecture-level divisions are further divided into districts, county-level cities, and counties. Xinjiang has traditionally been an agricultural region but also has large deposits of minerals and oil. The region is home to several ethnic groups including Han, Kazakh, Hui, Mongols, and Uyghur among other groups. Xinjiang has a population of about 21 million people.


Ningxia region is located in northwest China. It was reconstituted as an autonomous region for the Hui people. It covers an area of 25,600 square miles and is mostly sparsely settled. The region is divided into 5 prefecture-level divisions. Ningxia’s politics is structured around a dual-party government just like other parts of Mainland China. Ningxia is sparsely populated because of the desert conditions. It has a population of about 6.7 million people, of which the Hui Chinese make up the majority. Ningxia has abundant mineral resources with a proven deposit of 34 different minerals.


Tibet Autonomous Region was established in 1965 to replace Tiber Area. Its current borders were established in the 8th century. It is the one of the largest provincial divisions in China by land area, covering approximately 460,000 square miles. Tibet is the least populated autonomous region because of its hostile terrain. It has only a population of about 3 million people. Tibet is dependent on agriculture as the main economic activity. It is divided into 7 prefecture-level divisions which are further divided into 68 counties.

Administration of Autonomous Regions

All the autonomous regions have their own local governments which are below the federal government. The chairman of the autonomous region must be a member of the ethnic group within that region. The regions are also subdivided into several divisions known as prefecture divisions. Extra festivals and holidays are observed in these regions.

Autonomous Regions of China

RankAutonomous RegionPopulation
2Inner Mongolia24,706,321

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