The People’s Republic of China
China is the largest country in Asia, and also has the biggest population in the world (1.35 billion people). The main language is Mandarin and the major religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, and Islam. The intricate culture has roots dating back around 4,000 years, and is responsible for many modern-day inventions including the printing press and gunpowder. In 1949, the country became the People’s Republic of China when the Communist party defeated the Nationalist Kuomintang. The country is divided into 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities, and 2 special administrative regions. This article will take a look at those divisions.
After the Central government, provinces make up the first level of political divisions. While these provinces and their leaders work under command from the Central government, they do exercise significant autonomy over economic policies. The Chinese provinces are Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Zhejiang. The boundaries of the majority of these provinces were decided under ancient dynasties. These decisions were based on cultural and geographic divisions. Today, provinces are governed by a provincial committee which is further headed by a secretary who is the first in charge of the province.
Municipalities are larger city divisions. They do not, however, work under provincial rule. Municipalities are considered the first level of government after the Central government, equal to their Province counterparts. This is the highest level of classification for a city. The cities included here are Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin. These include the main urban area and its surround rural zones. Here, the mayor holds the highest rank. This official also serves on the National People’s Congress (the legislative body) and as the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party.
Another member of the first level of government after the Central or federal government is the autonomous region. These regions are typically based on cultural presence and have a higher population of a certain ethnic group than is represented in other areas of China. These regions are similar to provinces in that they have their own governing body although autonomous regions hold more legislative rights. The autonomous regions of China include Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Tibet, and Xinjiang.
Special Administrative Regions
Different from other first level governing divisions, the special administrative regions consist of separate Chinese territories. These regions fall under the rule of the central government though are not located within the Chinese mainland. They practice a more complete level of autonomy with their own governments, multiparty legislatures, currency, immigration policies, and legal systems (to name a few). This is called the One China, Two Systems principle. The two special administrative regions are Hong Kong and Macau.
Disputed Claims Regarding Taiwan
Taiwan has an interesting background within the divisions of China and, like Hong Kong and Macau, China offered it a position as a special administrative region in 1981. The belief is that unifying Taiwan (whose real name is the Republic of China) with China (or the People’s Republic of China) would allow the People’s Republic of China to be the only representative of China. This confusion began in 1949 after the Chinese Civil War. This war, as mentioned, was between Kuomintang (the founder of the Republic of China) and the Communists (now the People’s Republic of China). Since then, two Chinas have existed.
China refers to Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” and does so to show that Taiwan is, in their view, under the rule of China. Taiwan is prohibited from using its official name, The Republic of China, and as such often uses the name “Chinese Taipei”. The Taiwanese government and people do not agree with this, however. The Taiwanese believe that the label “Taiwan, China” is offensive and that it takes away from the sovereignty of the Republic of China. They are proponents of an independent Taiwan. Others within Taiwan support this claim and hope to one day see the reunification of Taiwan with China.