Special Municipality[I]
  Special municipalities are shown in pink
CategorySpecial municipalities, counties, and cities
LocationFree area of the Republic of China
    • City government
    • City council

Special municipality[I], historically known as Yuan-controlled municipality, is a first-level administrative division unit in Taiwan. It is the highest level of the country's administrative structure and is equivalent to a province. After the suspension of the provincial governments of 2018, the special municipalities along with provincial cities and counties have all governed directly under the central government.[1]

Currently total six cities are designated as special municipalities: Taipei, Taoyuan, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, all located in the most densely populated regions in the western half of the island.[2] These special municipalities encompass five most populous metropolitan areas in Taiwan, accounting for more than two-thirds of the national population.


See also: Political divisions of Taiwan (1895–1945) and Direct-administered municipalities of China

The first municipalities of the ROC 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 Nanjing, Shanghai, Beiping (Beijing), Tianjin, Qingdao, Chongqing, Xi'an, Canton, Hankou District (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).

Before the end of World War II, the island of Taiwan (Formosa) was under Japanese rule, with 11 cities established within its administrative divisions. Following the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Republic of China (ROC) took control of Taiwan, most of pre-1945 cities in Taiwan were reorganized as provincial cities, but Yilan and Hualien became the first two county-administered cities.

After the loss of the mainland to the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, all the special municipalities established in mainland China were lost. The new communist-led People's Republic of China government replaced the Yuan-controlled municipalities with direct-controlled municipalities. The Kuomintang-led government of the Republic of China lost the Chinese Civil War and relocated to Taipei, Taiwan. By the time of its retreat, no special municipalities was established in Taiwan or other territories under effective control of the ROC 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 at the time the most populous city. The scope of the Taipei special municipality includes the original provincial City of Taipei 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.

Municipality Metropolitan area Region
Taipei Taipei–Keelung metropolitan area Northern Taiwan
Taoyuan Taoyuan–Zhongli metropolitan area Northern Taiwan
Taichung Taichung–Changhua metropolitan area Central Taiwan
Kaohsiung Kaohsiung metropolitan area Southern Taiwan
New Taipei Taipei–Keelung metropolitan area Northern Taiwan
Tainan Tainan metropolitan area Southern Taiwan

Current Special Municipalities

See also: List of administrative divisions of Taiwan and List of heads of governments of special municipalities, counties and provincial cities in Taiwan

There are currently six special municipalities:

Name Population Area (km2) Administrative centre Date of establishment
 Taipei [II] 2,688,140 271.7997 Xinyi District[III] 1967-07-01
 Taoyuan[IV] 2,092,977 1,220.9540 Taoyuan District[V] 2014-12-25
 Kaohsiung[VI] 2,779,790 2,946.2527 Lingya District[VII], Fengshan District[VIII] 1979-07-01
 New Taipei[IX] 3,955,777 2,052.5667 Banqiao District[X] 2010-12-25
 Taichung[XI] 2,702,920 2,214.8968 Xitun District[XII], Fengyuan District[XIII] 2010-12-25
 Tainan[XIV] 1,883,251 2,191.6531 Anping District[XV], Xinying District[XVI] 2010-12-25

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

Name Executive Legislature
Government Mayor Current Mayor City Council No. of seats
Kaohsiung Kaohsiung City Government Mayor of Kaohsiung Chen Chi-mai Kaohsiung City Council 66
New Taipei New Taipei City Government Mayor of New Taipei Hou You-yi New Taipei City Council 66
Taichung Taichung City Government Mayor of Taichung Lu Shiow-yen Taichung City Council 63
Tainan Tainan City Government Mayor of Tainan Huang Wei-cher Tainan City Council 57
Taipei Taipei City Government Mayor of Taipei Chiang Wan-an Taipei City Council 63
Taoyuan Taoyuan City Government Mayor of Taoyuan Chang San-cheng Taoyuan City Council 60

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.


In Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County, it was proposed in September 2021 that both are to be upgraded to the nation's newest special municipality. Similarly, Changhua County and Changhua City have been expressed interest to become its special municipality that October.[3][4] The Tsai Ing-wen administration had approved the proposal to merge Hsinchu county and city in December 2021 but rejected Changhua due to the county's decline of population below the 1.25 million required by Article 4 of the Local Government Act for a region to be eligible for an upgrade.[5][6]

See also

Overview of administrative divisions of the Republic of China
Republic of China
Free area[i] Mainland area[ii]
Special municipalities[α][iii] Provinces[iv] Not administered[v]
Counties[α] Autonomous municipalities[α][vi]
Districts[β] Mountain
Townships[α][β][vii] Districts[β]
  1. ^ a b c d e f Has an elected executive and an elected legislative council.
  2. ^ a b c 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. ^ Also known as the Taiwan area or Tai–Min area (Chinese: 臺閩地區; lit. 'Taiwan–Fujian area')
  2. ^ The mainland area consists of Mainland China, Tibet and (previously) Outer Mongolia
  3. ^ Special municipalities, cities, and county-administered cities are all called shi (Chinese: ; lit. 'city')
  4. ^ Nominal; provincial governments have been abolished
  5. ^ Constitutionally having the same structure as the free area, these are currently under the Chinese Communist Party control with a different structure
  6. ^ Sometimes called cities (Chinese: ) or provincial cities (Chinese: 省轄市) to distinguish them from special municipalities and county-administered cities
  7. ^ There are two types of townships: rural townships or xīang (Chinese: ) and urban townships or zhèn (Chinese: )
  8. ^ Villages in rural townships are known as cūn (Chinese: ), those in other jurisdictions are known as (Chinese: )

Words in native languages

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  1. ^ "Local governments". Office of the President Republic of China (Taiwan). Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  2. ^ Atayal residents worried over Taoyuan's upgrade
  3. ^ "Cabinet holds 'no stance' on idea of 'Greater Hsinchu' - Taipei Times". 8 September 2021.
  4. ^ "Amendment paving way for Hsinchu city-county merger clears first hurdle - Focus Taiwan". 24 December 2021.
  5. ^ "DPP makes merger moves on Hsinchu, not Changhua | Taiwan News | 2021-12-25 09:10:00". 25 December 2021.
  6. ^ "MOI opposes special municipality status for Changhua County - Focus Taiwan". 13 May 2022.