Municipalities are under the direct administration of the central government. They have the same economic and jurisdictional rights as a province. It is the highest level of classification of cities in China. These are not “cities” in the usual sense of the term. It is an administrative unit comprising, typically of a main central urban area. Under them, there is a much larger surrounding of rural areas. They contain many smaller cities, districts, sub-districts, towns, and villages.
They have the highest political status.
In the year 1954, only Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin were municipalities. Chongqing is a restored municipality since 1997 with a much larger area.
Tianjin, for a temporary period, reverted to sub-provincial city status between 1958-1967.