Regions of China

Matthew Chipchura
Matthew Chipchura
Jan 8, 2023
7 min read
A map of China with a green thumbtack showing the regions of China


We live in a vast, exciting and interesting world where technology allows us to explore a country or region first from the comfort of our home or business via the internet. Then if a place piques our interest for business or personal allure we can further explore it in person on foot.

China is a country with a huge impact on the world therefore it generates great interest from the world's population. In 2019 China generated over 145.3 million visitors. However, the number of international visitor arrivals dropped substantially to 27.5 million in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Regardless, 27.5 million visitors and climbing speaks volume about the importance of this country. That's why understanding the structure and complexity of its different regions will be helpful to you in navigating your travels or business negotiations in China.

So let’s start first with some simple key facts: China is divided into 6 distinct regions that are commonly referenced by the national bureau and other official sources to describe the country's economy, climate, geography, governance, and administrations.

Surprisingly the climate of China has huge variances from the North to South. North China is famous for its cold winters and iconic attractions like the Great Wall of China along with many other historical sites. Meanwhile, South Central China has contrasting temperatures and the allure of hot summers, tropical weather, thriving tech centers and beautiful breathtaking beaches.

These diverse regions each offer unique sights, landscapes, business opportunities and climates that attract tourists and business travellers from all corners of the globe.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at each of China's regions in greater depth.

Here’s an overview of the different Provinces, Autonomous Regions, Municipalities, and Special Administrative Regions of China:

Regions of China map with colors outlining the different regions
A map that outlines the 6 different regions of China in different colours for easier reference.
  1. Provinces: China is divided into 23 provinces, which are the highest level of administrative divisions within the country. Provinces are led by governors that are responsible for carrying out federal directives and supervising local administrations. Each province has its own unique history, culture, manufacturing, and economic characteristics that play a major role in the country's overall development and growth.
  2. Autonomous regions: China has 5 autonomous regions (Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Tibet, and Xinjiang). To protect the cultural and linguistic traditions, the central government of Mainland China has established and granted these regions a high level of autonomy. The unique cultures, geography, and history of these regions make them popular tourist destinations for both local Chinese and foreign overseas travelers.
  3. Municipalities: China is home to 4 large cities that are considered municipalities (Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin). These cities are directly run by the central government and have the same level of control and power as the provinces within the country. These cities play a big role in the political, economic, and jurisdictional landscape of China.
  4. Special administrative regions: China has 2 special administrative regions, which are Hong Kong and Macau. These regions have a high degree of autonomy and maintain their own legal and economic systems. Hong Kong is well known for its history, skyscrapers, and bustling financial hub, while Macau is known as being China's version of Las Vegas with an abundance of casinos and other tourist attractions.

In addition to these is Taiwan, which the central government of China considers a territory that has yet to be reunified with the Chinese nation.

See what I meant when I said this is a complex country? There are a lot of facts relative to understanding the vast regions of China.

Overall, the regions of Mainland China are diverse and they all play a vital role in the country's overall development and economic growth.

By better understanding the unique characteristics of each region you’ll get valuable insights into the culture and economy of China. And if you’re a foreign business owner seeking to do business in China this information will help you learn the economic landscape of the country.

But if your interest in China's regions diverges from business and instead originates from a thirst for beauty, heat, and excitement, then the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen are an absolute must for you to explore!

The 6 distinct regions of China

1. North China (华北)

The north of China is a region known for great diversity and a number of important historical and cultural sites, including the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Yungang Grottoes in Shanxi. North China is a major financial and administrative hub and home to some of China's largest cities, including Beijing and Tianjin to name just a few. Landscapes in North China range from the Gobi Desert to the Great Wall of China.

2. Northeast China (东北)

The northeast region of Mainland China is home to the cities of Changchun, Shenyang, and Harbin, which are known for their cold weather and winter festivals. The northeast region's economy is stimulated by heavy-industry manufacturing and is a major hub for Chinese automobile manufacturing due to its natural resources, including coal, oil, and gas. The northeast is also a hub for education, with many universities and colleges located there.

3. East China (华东)

East China, a region that covers the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and more, is one of the most populous and economically prosperous parts of the entire country. It is renowned for its many historical and cultural sites and is the home to many of China's largest and most developed metropolitan cities, including Shanghai, Nanjing, Ningbo, and Hangzhou which make up the triangle-shaped Yangtze River Delta for population density.

4. South Central China (中南)

South Central China is one of the most populated regions in the world and is home to a variety of landscapes, cultures, tourist attractions, and coastal areas. Within this region are several provinces, including Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, and others. Renowned for its warm climate and economic significance, this region is the birthplace of numerous megacities and has a thriving agricultural sector. It has also become a focal point for technological development, innovation, and manufacturing, with numerous tech companies flocking to the Pearl River Delta - a highly populated area that rivals the density of Tokyo in terms of population.

5. Southwest China (西南)

Southwest China is a region that boasts a rich cultural heritage and diverse ethnic groups, including Tibetans, Yi, Miao, and Dai, amidst its striking geography. Comprised of the provinces of Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, and Tibet, this region showcases a multitude of breathtaking landscapes, including the world's highest plateau, the Tibetan Plateau, and the longest river in Asia, the Yangtze river. Furthermore, this region is a haven for food enthusiasts, particularly for those who relish spicy cuisine, owing to the presence of Chengdu, a city that's renowned for its fiery Sichuan culinary delights.

6. Northwest China (西北)

The northwest is one of China's most diverse regions, with landscapes and attractions that vary from the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain range in the West to the Terracotta Warriors in the East. It's also where the Yellow river begins, which is the second-longest river in China. Despite the region's arid landscapes, it's home to a wealth of natural resources and has the largest oil and gas reserves in the country. Major cities include Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi, and Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province. Overall, Northwest China has a rich history and culture and is home to a number of ancient Buddhist and Islamic shrines and monasteries.

Why does China have regions?

In order to provide an overview of an entire country and rather than providing detailed information about provinces individually, it's often necessary for countries to use broader methods of classification.

This classification approach offers a multitude of benefits, such as giving a general overview of the country, highlighting cultural and geographical characteristics, predicting weather patterns, showcasing the food and tourism offerings of specific regions, and facilitating the implementation of policies and allocation of resources.

China is not the only nation that implements this system of regional division to characterize its territory. Other countries, such as the United States, also resort to this technique, with the United States Census Bureau dividing the country into four regions: the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West.

How many regions are in China?

On occasion, certain administrations will divide the country into seven regions, rather than six. This occurs when the region of South Central China is divided into South China and Central China, rather than being treated as a single region that's more commonly known as South Central China.

What are the different regions of China?

  1. North China
  2. Northeast China
  3. East China
  4. South Central China
  5. Southwest China
  6. Northwest China

Maps of the different regions of China

North China

Map showing the different regions of China with red showing the North region of China
A map that outlines the region of North China.

Northeast China

Map showing the different regions of China with red showing the Northeast region of China
A map that outlines the region of Northeast China.

Map of East China

Map showing the different regions of China with red showing the East region of China
A map that outlines the region of East China.

Map of South Central China

Map showing the different regions of China with red showing the South Central region of China
A map that outlines the region of South Central China.

Map of Southwest China

Map showing the different regions of China with red showing the Southwest region of China
A map that outlines the region of Southwest China.

Map of Northwest China

Map showing the different regions of China with red showing the Northwest region of China
A map that outlines the region of Northwest China.


In summary, China is a land of vast diversity steeped in rich history and cultural heritage, that's comprised of six major regions - the North, Northeast, Northwest, East, South Central, and Southwest - each with its own special qualities, cultural identity, and points of interest, as well as housing a diverse range of manufacturing industries.

Whether it's the rugged terrain and stunning natural scenery of the Southwest or the lively cities and picturesque coastal areas of South Central China, this is a country that will capture your intrigue and heart.

Matthew Chipchura
Matthew Chipchura
Founder, Advanta Sourcing

Contact us

Have questions about sourcing, product design and manufacturing in China? We've got you covered — get in touch to learn how we can help.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Ready to save time, money and resources? Join our monthly newsletter to get valuable insights on product sourcing & manufacturing in China.
We care about your data, learn more in our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
© 2023 Advanta Sourcing Ltd. All rights reserved.