towns and townships

towns and townships
One sometimes sees references to China’s ‘counties and townships’ as if the two words were interchangeable. In fact they are not. In each of China’s 2,079 counties there is at least one major town (the county seat) and often several other smaller towns called zhen. In national census publications (Lu 1998) the population is given for some 4,720 different cities or shi and counties or xian. Although referring to the Pearl River Delta, Lin’s (1997) description is fairly applicable across the country. He describes the administrative (and spatial) hierarchy as usually having five components: ‘county’ (xian), ‘township’ (xiang), ‘towns’ found within a township (zhen), ‘administrative districts’, replacing the former ‘brigades’ (guanliqu), and ‘administrative villages’ (cun) and/or ‘village communities’ (cunmin weiyuanhui), in lieu of the former ‘production teams’. The name of the county seat town is almost always the same as the name of the county. Townships were created after 1980 to replace the ‘communes’.
Each township has a seat of local government that normally is designated with a ‘town’ (zhen) status, although the overall population and land area of the township are predominantly agricultural in nature (Lin 1997:137). In eastern, densely populated China, a township can have a population well in excess of 50,000 covering an area of less than 100 sq. km. while at the other extreme in the far west—in southern Qinghai, for example—a township can have an area of 20,000 sq. km. or more with a population under 10,000.
See also: cities
Fei, Hsiao Tung (1986). Small Towns in China: Functions, Problems and Prospects. Beijing: New World Press.
Lin, George C.S. (1997). Red Capitalism in South China. Vancouver: UBC Press.
Lu, Chenhung (1998). China Population Statistics Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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