City status


City status is a symbolic and legal designation given by a national or subnational government. A municipality may receive city status because it already has the qualities of a city, or because it has some special purpose.

Historically, city status was a privilege granted by royal letters of patent. The status would allow markets and/or foreign trade, in contrast to towns. Sovereigns could establish cities by decree, e.g. Helsinki, regardless of what was in the location beforehand. Also, with the establishment of federal governments, the new capital could be established from scratch, e.g. Brasília, without going through organic growth from a village to a town.

Coat of arms of the City of Westminster, a part of London which has its own city status.

British city status was historically conferred on settlements with a diocesan cathedral; in more recent times towns apply to receive city status at times of national celebration. In the United States city can be used for much smaller settlements.

The Government of China in 1982–1997 upgraded many counties to cities by decree, thereby increasing their city count from 250 to more than 650 during this period. Almost 15% of the counties in China became cities. The new "cities" may include large rural areas as well as urban areas. The upgrade was considered desirable by local governments because the new status provides additional powers of taxation and administration, the right to expand the size of government, and an increase in the proportion of land which could be converted from agriculture to buildings.[1][2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lixing Li, "The incentive role of creating 'cities' in China"; China Economic Review 22, 2011.
  2. ^ Shenggen Fan, Lixing Li, Xiaobo Zhang, "Challenges of creating cities in China: Lessons from a short-lived country-to-city upgrading policy[permanent dead link]"; Journal of Comparative Economics 40, 2012.