Special municipality (Taiwan)

A special municipality[upper-roman 1] is an administrative division unit in the Republic of China (Taiwan). Under the administrative structure of the ROC, it is the highest rank of division and is equivalent to a province. Since the streamlining of provinces in 1998, the special municipalities along with provincial cities and counties have all been directly under the central government.[1]

Special Municipality[upper-roman 1]
Special municipalities are shown in pink
CategorySpecial municipalities, counties, and cities
LocationFree area of the Republic of China
Number6 (current)
18 (overall)
    • City government
    • City council

Currently there are six special municipalities under ROC's control: Kaohsiung, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei and Taoyuan.[2]


The first municipalities of China were established in 1927 soon after they were designated as "cities" during the 1920s. Nominally, Dairen was a municipality as well, although it was under Japanese control. It consisted of the original 11 cities of Nanking, Shanghai, Peking (Peiping), Tientsin, Tsingtao, Chungking, Sian, Canton, Hankow (now part of Wuhan), Shenyang, and Harbin. These cities were first called special municipalities/cities (特別市; tèbiéshì), but were later renamed Yuan-controlled municipalities (院辖市; 院轄市; yuànxiáshì).

When the island of Taiwan (Formosa) was under Japanese rule, it consisted of 11 cities. Following the end of World War II, the Republic of China (ROC) reclaimed Taiwan and no special municipalities were established although they became provincial cities, but Yilan and Hualien became the first two county-administered cities.

After the fall of the mainland to the Communist Party of China in 1949, the Kuomintang-led government of the Republic of China lost the Chinese Civil War and was relocated to Taipei, Taiwan. At this time all the special municipalities established in mainland China were lost. There were no special municipalities under the government's effective jurisdiction, in which the new authorities in the mainland replaced the Yuan-controlled municipalities with direct-controlled municipalities by the PRC Central Government.

In 1967, Taipei City, the first special municipality in Taiwan was created. Taipei served as the capital of the country starting in 1949 and was also the most populous city. Territory of the Taipei special municipality includes the original provincial Taipei City and 4 of its neighboring townships in Taipei County, including Neihu, Nangang, Muzha and Jingmei. In the next year, Shilin and Beitou of Yangmingshan Administrative Bureau (a county-equivalent administrative division) were also merged into Taipei.

In 1979, the major international port and industrial city in the southwest of the country — Kaohsiung — were also upgraded to a special municipality. Territory of the Kaohsiung special municipality includes the original provincial Kaohsiung City and Siaogang Township in Kaohsiung County.

At this time, Taiwan was under martial law. All national and municipal level elections were suspended. The mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung were assigned by the Executive Yuan (central government), not by elections until 1994. For this reason the special municipalities were also called Yuan-controlled municipalities (Chinese: 院轄市; pinyin: yuànxiáshì) at this period.

Following the democratic reforms in the early 1990s, more thoughts of administrative division reform and reorganization were widely discussed. The Local Government Act (地方制度法) was passed by the Legislative Yuan (the Parliament) in 1999. This Act regulates the local self-governance bodies and came with some articles to deal with the possible changes of administrative divisions. In the Act also states that cities with population of over 1,250,000 and with significance on political, economic and cultural development may form a special municipality.

The 2007 amendment of Local Government Act states that a county or city with population over two million may grant some extra privileges in local autonomy that was designed for special municipalities. This type of counties are often called quasi-municipalities (準直轄市). Taipei County was the first division within this case. In 2009, another amendment of Local Government Act gave councils of counties and cities the right to file petitions to reform themselves into special municipalities. Four proposals were approved by the Executive Yuan in 2009

The four newly created special municipalities were formally established on December 25, 2010 with the inauguration of the new mayors.

In June 2010, the population of Taoyuan County also grew over 2 million and were qualified for being a quasi-municipality since 2011. The county government also sent a proposal to become a special municipality in 2012. Executive Yuan approved the proposal and the special municipality of Taoyuan were formally established on December 25, 2014.

Currently, there are in total six special municipalities under the central government. The special municipalities cover the top five most populous metropolitan areas in Taiwan and over two thirds (2/3) of the national population.

MunicipalityMetropolitan areaRegion
KaohsiungKaohsiung metropolitan areaSouthern Taiwan
New TaipeiTaipei–Keelung metropolitan areaNorthern Taiwan
TaichungTaichung–Changhua metropolitan areaCentral Taiwan
TainanTainan metropolitan areaSouthern Taiwan
TaipeiTaipei–Keelung metropolitan areaNorthern Taiwan
TaoyuanTaoyuan–Zhongli metropolitan areaNorthern Taiwan

Current Special Municipalities

There are currently six special municipalities:

Name PopulationArea (km2)Administrative centreDate of establishment
 Kaohsiung City[upper-roman 2] 2,779,7902,946.2527Lingya District[upper-roman 3], Fengshan District[upper-roman 4]1979-07-01
 New Taipei City[upper-roman 5] 3,955,7772,052.5667Banqiao District[upper-roman 6]2010-12-25
 Taichung[upper-roman 7] 2,702,9202,214.8968Xitun District[upper-roman 8], Fengyuan District[upper-roman 9]2010-12-25
 Tainan[upper-roman 10] 1,883,2512,191.6531Anping District[upper-roman 11], Xinying District[upper-roman 12]2010-12-25
 Taipei[upper-roman 13] 2,688,140271.7997Xinyi District[upper-roman 14]1967-07-01
 Taoyuan[upper-roman 15] 2,092,9771,220.9540Taoyuan District[upper-roman 16]2014-12-25

Their self-governed bodies (executive and legislature) regulated by the Local Government Act are:

GovernmentMayorCurrent MayorCity CouncilNo. of seats
KaohsiungKaohsiung City GovernmentMayor of KaohsiungChen Chi-maiKaohsiung City Council66
New TaipeiNew Taipei City GovernmentMayor of New TaipeiHou You-yiNew Taipei City Council66
TaichungTaichung City GovernmentMayor of TaichungLu Shiow-yenTaichung City Council63
TainanTainan City GovernmentMayor of TainanHuang Wei-cherTainan City Council57
TaipeiTaipei City GovernmentMayor of TaipeiKo Wen-jeTaipei City Council63
TaoyuanTaoyuan City GovernmentMayor of TaoyuanCheng Wen-tsanTaoyuan City Council60

In Taiwanese municipalities, the mayor is the highest-ranking official in charge. The mayor is directly elected by the people registered in the municipality for a duration of four years.

See also

Overview of administrative divisions of the Republic of China
Republic of China
Special municipalities[lower-greek 1][lower-roman 1] Provinces[lower-roman 2]
Counties[lower-greek 1] Cities[lower-greek 1][lower-roman 3]
Districts[lower-greek 2] Mountain
[lower-greek 1]
[lower-greek 1]
Townships[lower-greek 1][lower-greek 2][lower-roman 4] Districts[lower-greek 2]
Villages[lower-greek 3][lower-roman 5]
  1. Has an elected executive and an elected legislative council.
  2. Has an appointed district administrator for managing local affairs and carrying out tasks commissioned by superior agency.
  3. Has an elected village administrator for managing local affairs and carrying out tasks commissioned by superior agency.


  1. Special municipalities, cities, and county-administered cities are all called shi (Chinese: ; lit. 'city')
  2. Nominal provinces; provincial governments have been abolished
  3. Sometimes called provincial cities (Chinese: 省轄市) to distinguish them from special municipalities and county-administered cities
  4. There are two types of townships: rural townships or xīang (Chinese: ) and urban townships or zhèn (Chinese: )
  5. Villages in rural townships are known as tsūn (Chinese: ), those in other jurisdictions are known as (Chinese: )

Words in native languages


  1. "Local governments". Office of the President Republic of China (Taiwan). Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  2. Atayal residents worried over Taoyuan's upgrade
  1. Sarah Shair-Rosenfield (November 2020). "Taiwan combined" (PDF). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 29 May 2021.