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Home > Welcome to China > Welcome to China
Land and Resources
2004/03/08
          Position and Area

          China is situated in the eastern part of Asia, on the west coast of
          the Pacific Ocean.
          China has a total land area of 9.6 million square kilometres, next
          only to Russia and Canada. From north to south, it measures some
          5,500 kilometres, stretching from the central line of the Heilong
          River north of the town of Mohe to the Zengmu Reef at the
          southernmost tip of the Nansha Islands. From west to east, the
          territory of China extends about 5,200 kilometres from the Pamirs to
          the confluence of the Heilong and Wusuli rivers.
          China's land border is 22,800 kilometres long. The nation is
          bordered by Korea in the east; Mongolia in the north; Russia in the
          northeast; Kazakhstan, Kirghizia and Tadzhikistan in the northwest;
          Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan in the west
          and southwest; and Myanmar, Laos and Viet Nam in the south. Across
          the seas to the east and southeast are the Republic of Korea, Japan,
          the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
          The Chinese mainland is flanked by the Bohai, the Huanghai (Yellow
          Sea), and the East China and South China seas in the east and south.
          The territorial waters of the People's Republic of China extend 12
          nautical miles out from the base line drawn where China's land
          territories and interior waters border the sea. More than 5,000
          islands are scattered over China's vast territorial seas, the
          largest being Taiwan with an area of 36,000 square kilometres, and
          the next largest, Hainan with an area of 34,000 square kilometres.
          Taiwan and Hainan are two provinces of China.
          The coast of the mainland, 18,000 kilometres long, is dotted with
          excellent barbours and ports, the most famous of them, from north to
          south, being Dalian, Qinhuangdao, Tianjin, Yantai, Qingdao,
          Lianyungang, Nantong, Shanghai, Ningbo, Wenzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen,
          Guangzhou, Zhanjiang and Beihai. Among them Shanghai is the largest
          city in China with a population of 13.56 million and well-developed
          industry, commerce, finance and ocean transportation.
       
         Topography and Mountain Ranges
           
          China's surface slopes down from west to east in a four-step
          staircase.
          The top of the staircase is the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with an
          average elevation of more than 4,000 metres and known as "the roof
          of the world." The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is composed of rows of
          snow-capped peaks and glaciers. The major mountain ranges are the
          Kunlun, Gangdise and Himalaya.
          The second step consists of the Inner Mongolia, Loess and
          Yunnan-Guizhou plateaus, and the Tarim, Junggar and Sichuan basins,
          on an altitude of 1,000-2,000 metres.
          The third step, about 500-1,000 metres in elevation, begins at the
          line from the Greater Hinggan, Taihang, Wushan and Xuefeng mountain
          ranges eastward to the sea coast. Here, running from north to south
          are the Northeast Plain, the North China Plain, and the Middle-Lower
          Yangtze Plain. Interspersed amongst the plains are hills and
          foothills.
          To the east of the third step the shallow waters of the continental
          shelf, an extension of the land into the ocean, form the fourth step
          of the staff case. The depth of the water here is less than 200
          metres. Great quantities of mud and sand have been carried here by
          the rivers on the mainland.
          China's many mountains are well known throughout the world. Her
          mountain ranges can be divided into five basic categories according
          to the directions in which they run: (1) west to east mountain
          ranges, including the Tianshan-Yinshan-Yanshan mountain system, the
          Kunlun-Qinling-Dabie mountain system, and the Nanling mountain
          system; (2) north to south mountain ranges, including the Helan,
          Liupan, and Hengduan ranges; (3) northeast to southwest mountain
          ranges, including the Changbai, Greater Hinggan, Taihang, and Wushan
          ranges; (4) northwest to southeast mountain ranges, including the
          Altay, Qilian and Gangdise ranges; and (5) arc-shaped mountain
          ranges, including the Himalayas and Taiwan Mountains.  

         Rivers and Lakes

          Most of China's rivers flow from west to east into the Pacific Ocean
          except a few in southwest China that flow to the south. The rivers
          in China total 220,000 kilometres in length and more than 1,500 of
          them drain an area of 1,000 square kilometres or larger each. The
          total flow of these rivers is 2,700 billion cubic metres, almost the
          same as the total flow of the rivers in Europe. The nation's largest
          rivers originate on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and thus have a high
          drop. Accordingly, China is rich in hydropower resources, leading
          the world with 680 million kilowatts hydropower reserves.
          The Yangtze River (Changjiang), 6,300 kilometres long, is the
          largest river in China. It has a catchment area of 1,800,000 square
          kilometres, and is the major inland-river transport artery in China.
          The Yellow River (Huanghe), stretching over 5,464 kilometres, is
          China's second largest. Its catchment area, covering more than
          750,000 square kilometres, is the birthplace of ancient Chinese
          civilization and has a wealth of historic sites and relics, many of
          them buried underground.
          China also has a famous man-made waterway, the Grand Canal, running
          from Beijing in the north to Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, in the
          south, totalling 1,801 kilometres in length. It was dug in the 5th
          century B.C. and repeatedly extended and dredged, becoming a major
          thoroughfare for water transport in subsequent dynasties. In ancient
          times, materials were transported from south to north and emperors
          went from north to south on pleasure trips through this canal.
          China has many natural lakes, most of them scattered in the
          Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. China's
          largest freshwater lake is Lake Poyang with an area of 3,583 square
          kilometres and the largest salt lake is Lake Qinghai in the west
          with an area of 4,583 square kilometres.  

           Climate

          Most of China is situated in the temperate zone. Some parts of south
          China are located in tropical and subtropical zones while the
          northern part is near the frigid zone. In north China, summers are
          warm and short and winters long and cold. In the tropical and
          subtropical south, trees and other vegetation remain green all year.
          The eastern coastal regions of China are warm and humid and have
          four distinct seasons. But the temperatures in the interior areas of
          northwest China change greatly during the daytime. There is a
          saying: "People wear fur coats in the morning and silk at noon."
          Because of its high elevation, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau area, a
          special alpine-cold zone, has low temperatures all year round.  

           Land Resources

          China has 95.1 million hectares of cultivated land, mostly in the
          Northeast, North China, and Middle-Lower Yangtze plains, the Pearl
          River (Zhujiang) Delta and the Sichuan Basin. The Northeast Plain
          with fertile black soil is ideal for crop growth--wheat, maize,
          sorghum, soybeans, sugar beets and flax. The North China Plain has
          level terrain and deep topsoil, where major crops include wheat,
          maize, millet, sorghum and cotton, along with apples, pears, grapes,
          persimmons and other fruits. The Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain abounds
          in rice, rapeseed, broad beans, tangerines and freshwater fish. This
          area is called "land of fish and rice."
          China has 128.63 million hectares of forest cover. The Greater
          Hinggan, Lesser Hinggan and Changbai mountain ranges in northeast
          China are the largest natural forest areas that produce large stands
          of coniferous trees, such as Korean pine and latch, and broad-leaf
          trees, such as white birch, oak, northeast China ash, poplar and
          elm. Southwest China is another natural forest area, where the
          following varieties thrive: dragon spruce, fix, Yunnan pine, teak,
          red sandalwood, camphorwood, nanmu and padauk.
          Grasslands cover 400 million hectares. Grasslands stretch 3,000
          kilometres across China from the northeast to the southwest. Animal
          husbandry bases are located in the grasslands. Inner Mongolian
          grassland is the largest natural pastureland in China where the
          Sanhe horse, Sanhe cattle and Mongolian sheep are raised. South and
          north of the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang, there are also famous
          natural pasturelands ideal for livestock. The famous Ili horse and
          the Xinjiang fine-wool sheep are raised here.  

           Fauna and Flora
           
          China has the greatest diversity of wildlife in the world. There are
          more than 2,000 species of terrestrial vertebrates, more than 10
          percent of the world's total. There are 1,189 known species of
          birds, nearly 500 animal species, more than 210 species of
          amphibians and 320 species of reptiles. Among the wild animals,
          there are many rare species found only in China. These include the
          giant panda, golden monkey, white-lipped deer, takin, Chinese river
          dolphin and Chinese alligator.
          Giant pandas, recognized as one of China's ."national treasures,"
          live in the remote mountain areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi
          provinces and feed on bamboo. The panda, called a "living fossil,"
          is a remnant species which thrived during the glacier period of the
          Quaternary.
          China has 7,000 species of woody plants, of which 2,800 are arbors.
          The metasequoia, China cypress, cathaya, silver fir, China fir,
          golden larch, Taiwan flousiana, Fujian cypress, and eucommia are
          trees found only in China. The metasequoia grows to 35 metres in
          height. Commonly found in East Asia, North America and Europe one
          hundred million years ago, it became extinct by the glacial period
          of the Quaternary. In 1941, China discovered more than a thousand
          metasequoias on the Sichuan-Hubei border. This was one of the
          greatest botanical discoveries of the 20th century. After 1949,
          metasequoias were introduced to other countries of the world.
          In a concerted effort to protect the nation's zoological and
          botanical resources, China had established 763 nature reserves
          covering 66.18 million hectares by 1994. Sichuan's Wolong, Jilin's
          Changbai Mountains, Guangdong's Dinghu Mountains, Guizhou's Fanjing
          Mountains, Fujian's Wuyi Mountains, Hubei's Shennongjia, Inner
          Mongolia's Xilingol, Xinjiang's Mt. Bogda, Yunnan's Xishuangbanna
          and Jiangsu's Yancheng serve as bases for in- ternational scientific
          research projects; Heilongjiang's Zhalong, Jilin's Xianghai,
          Dongting Lake in eastern Hunan, Jiangxi's Poyang Lake, Qinghai's
          Bird Island and Hainan's Dongzhai Harbour have been included in the
          listing of the world's important waterfowl wetlands. In addition,
          rescue centres for animals close to extinction have been established
          in Beijing, Kunming, Guangzhou and elsewhere. To date, China has
          succeeded in breeding more than 60 species of animals close to
          extinction, a great contribution to the world's efforts to save such
          creatores.  

           Mineral Resources

          China is rich in mineral resources, with total reserves ranking
          third in the world. It has deposits of all the world's known
          minerals. To date, geologists have verified reserves of 148
          different minerals. The nation's 1,001.9 billion tons of coal
          reserves are found mainly in Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and
          Heilongjiang. Oil resources are widely distributed throughout most
          of the country, and more than 370 oilfields and more than 110 gas
          fields have been discovered. Progress has been made in offshore oil
          exploration since the 1980s. Large oil basins have been discovered
          in Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, the Pearl River estuary,
          and the Beibu Bay and Yingge Sea in the South China Sea. Iron ore is
          widely dispersed throughout China, with confirmed reserves of 48.7
          billion tons. China is among the countries that lead the world in
          such nonferrous metals as tungsten, tin, antimony, zinc, molybdenum,
          lead, and mercury, whereas its rare earth metal reserves far exceed
          the world's total.
         


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