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Types and Characteristics of Small Towns in China[44]

A. Designated Towns (jianzhi zhen)

Administered by county governments, all designated towns are part of the hierarchy of urban settlements. There are two types of designated towns:

1. County seats (xian zhengfu suozaidi )

These towns are directly controlled by the county government. Larger county seats are sometimes designated as cities and are directly under the control of the nearby urban administration. Their main function is administrative, although many have become industrial centers since the late 1970s.


2. County-towns (xianshu zhen )

This type of town decreased in the prereform era, but now many township seats have been designated as county-towns and have moved up into the hierarchy of urban settlements. Former township seats still control most of the countryside they administered as township seats, while some county-towns that were not formerly township seats control only a few villages, which supply food for town residents. In some instances, county-towns have been unified with the township government and now control much of the rural area administered by the township.

B. Undesignated Towns (fei jianzhi zhen)

These towns are administered by the township governments or may exist autonomously of higher-level governments. All undesignated towns are part of the hierarchy of rural settlements and are part of the countryside. There are two types of undesignated towns:

1. Township seats (xiang zhengfu suozaidi )

Linked with economic cooperatives in the late 1950s, these settlements served as commune headquarters from the 1960s into the 1970s. In the 1980s they changed names to townships. They have urban administrative functions as well as economic ones, given that many township governments own rural enterprises. They are often regional marketing centers. Leading officials may be state cadres who receive state-subsidized grain.

2. Rural Market Towns (nongcun jizhen )

Major marketing centers, these rural settlements declined under CCP rule and were resurrected under the reforms. They are often centers for service industries linked to marketing. In more advanced areas of the countryside they are likely to be run by the former brigade committee, now called "administrative villages."

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