Geography of China (中国地理)
Geographic Map of China
RegionEast/Southeast Asia
Coordinates35°0′N 105°0′E / 35.000°N 105.000°E / 35.000; 105.000[1]
AreaRanked 4
 • Total9,596,960[1] km2 (3,705,410 sq mi)
 • Land97.2[1]%
 • Water2.8[1]%
Coastline14,500[1] km (9,000 mi)
BordersAfghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, India, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Vietnam
Highest pointMount Everest, 8,848 m (29,029 ft)[2]
Lowest pointTurpan Pendi, −154 m (−505 ft)[1]
Longest riverYangtze River[3]
Largest lakeQinghai Lake[citation needed]
Climatediverse; ranges from tropical in south to subarctic in north[1]
Terrainmostly mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west and plains, deltas and hills in east[1]
Natural resourcescoal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, rare earth elements, uranium, hydropower potential, arable land[1]
Natural hazardstyphoons; damaging floods; tsunamis; earthquakes; droughts; land subsidence[1]
Environmental issuesair pollution; water shortages; water pollution; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; trade in endangered species[1]
Geography and climates of China
Satellite imagery of China

China has great physical diversity. The eastern plains and southern coasts of the country consist of fertile lowlands and foothills. They are the location of most of China's agricultural output and human population. The southern areas of the country (south of the Yangtze River) consist of hilly and mountainous terrain. The west and north of the country are dominated by sunken basins (such as the Gobi and the Taklamakan), rolling plateaus, and towering massifs. It contains part of the highest tableland on earth, the Tibetan Plateau, and has much lower agricultural potential and population.

Traditionally, the Chinese population centered on the Chinese central plain and oriented itself toward its own enormous inland market, developing as an imperial power whose center lay in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River on the northern plains.[citation needed] More recently, the 18,000 km (11,000 mi) coastline has been used extensively for export-oriented trade, causing the coastal provinces to become the leading economic center.

The People's Republic of China has an area of about 9,600,000 km2 (3,700,000 sq mi). The exact land area is sometimes challenged by border disputes, most notably about Taiwan, Aksai Chin, the Trans-Karakoram Tract, and South Tibet. The area of the People's Republic of China is 9,596,960 km2 (3,705,410 sq mi) according to the CIA's The World Factbook.[1] The People's Republic of China is either the third or fourth-largest country in the world, being either slightly larger or slightly smaller than the United States, depending on how the area of the United States is measured. Both countries are smaller than Russia and Canada and larger than Brazil.

Physical geography


Topographic map of China

The topography of China has been divided by the Chinese government into five homogeneous physical macro-regions, namely Eastern China (subdivided into the northeast plain, north plain, and southern hills), Xinjiang-Mongolia, and the Tibetan highlands.[4] It is diverse with snow-capped mountains, deep river valleys, broad basins, high plateaus, rolling plains, terraced hills, sandy dunes with many other geographic features and other landforms present in myriad variations. In general, the land is high in the west and descends to the east coast. Mountains (33 percent), plateaus (26 percent) and hills (10 percent) account for nearly 70 percent of the country's land surface. Most of the country's arable land and population are based in lowland plains (12 percent) and basins (19 percent), though some of the greatest basins are filled with deserts. The country's rugged terrain presents problems for the construction of overland transportation infrastructure and requires extensive terracing to sustain agriculture, but is conducive to the development of forestry, mineral and hydropower resources, as well as tourism in the country.

Eastern China

Main article: East China

Northeast Plain

Northeast of Shanhaiguan a narrow sliver of flat coastal land opens up into the vast Northeast China Plain. The plains extend north to the crown of the "Chinese rooster", near where the Greater and Lesser Hinggan ranges converge. The Changbai Mountains to the east divide China from the Korean peninsula.

North plain

The Taihang Mountains form the western side of the triangular North China Plain. The other two sides are the Pacific coast to the east and the Yangtze River to the southwest. The vertices of this triangle are Beijing to the north, Shanghai to the southeast, and Yichang to the southwest. This alluvial plain, fed by the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, is one of the most heavily populated regions of China. The only mountains in the plain are the Taishan in Shandong and Dabie Mountains of Anhui.

Beijing, at the north tip of the North China Plain, is shielded by the intersection of the Taihang and Yan Mountains. Further north are the drier grasslands of the Inner Mongolian Plateau, traditionally home to pastoralists. To the south are agricultural regions, traditionally home to sedentary populations. The Great Wall of China was built across the mountains that mark the southern edge of the Inner Mongolian Plateau. The Ming-era walls run over 2,000 km (1,200 mi) east to west from Shanhaiguan on the Bohai coast to the Hexi Corridor in Gansu.

South (hills)
Karst landscape around Yangshuo in Guangxi
North slope of Changbaishan in Jilin Province, near the border with North Korea.
Sand dunes of the Gobi Desert near Dunhuang, in Gansu Province.
The Loess Plateau near Hunyuan in Shanxi Province.

East of the Tibetan Plateau, deeply folded mountains fan out toward the Sichuan Basin, which is ringed by mountains with 1,000–3,000 m elevation. The floor of the basin has an average elevation of 500 m and is home to one of the most densely farmed and populated regions of China. The Sichuan Basin is capped in the north by the eastward continuation of the Kunlun range, the Qinling, and the Dabashan. The Qinling and Dabashan ranges form a major north–south divide across China Proper, the traditional core area of China. Southeast of the Tibetan Plateau and south of the Sichuan Basin is the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, which occupies much of southwest China. This plateau, with an average elevation of 2,000 m, is known for its limestone karst landscape.

South of the Yangtze, the landscape is more rugged. Like Shanxi Province to the north, Hunan and Jiangxi each have a provincial core in a river basin that is surrounded by mountains. The Wuling range separates Guizhou from Hunan. The Luoxiao and Jinggang divide Hunan from Jiangxi, which is separated from Fujian by the Wuyi Mountains. The southeast coastal provinces, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, have rugged coasts, with pockets of lowland and mountainous interior. The Nanling, an east–west mountain range across northern Guangdong, seals off Hunan and Jiangxi from Guangdong.


Main articles: Northwestern China and Inner Mongolia

Northwest of the Tibetan Plateau, between the northern slope of Kunlun and southern slope of Tian Shan, is the vast Tarim Basin of Xinjiang, which contains the Taklamakan Desert. The Tarim Basin, the largest in China, measures 1,500 km (930 mi) from east to west and 600 km (370 mi) from north to south at its widest parts. Average elevation in the basin is 1,000 m. To the east, the basin descends into the Hami-Turpan Depression of eastern Xinjiang, where the dried lake bed of Lake Ayding, at −154m below sea level, is the lowest surface point in China and the third-lowest in the world. With temperatures that have reached 49.6 C., the lake bed ranks as one of the hottest places in China. North of Tian Shan is Xinjiang's second great basin, the Junggar, which contains the Gurbantünggüt Desert. The Junggar Basin is enclosed to the north by the Altay Mountains, which separate Xinjiang from Russia and Mongolia.

Northeast of the Tibetan Plateau, the Altun Shan-Qilian Mountains range branches off the Kunlun and creates a parallel mountain range running east–west. In between in northern Qinghai is the Qaidam Basin, with elevations of 2,600–3,000 m and numerous brackish and salt lakes. North of the Qilian is Hexi Corridor of Gansu, a natural passage between Xinjiang and China Proper that was part of the ancient Silk Road and traversed by modern highway and rail lines to Xinjiang. Further north, the Inner Mongolian Plateau, between 900 and 1,500 m in elevation, arcs north up the spine of China and becomes the Greater Hinggan Range of Northeast China.

Between the Qinling and the Inner Mongolian Plateau is Loess Plateau, the largest of its kind in the world, covering 650,000 km2 (250,000 sq mi) in Shaanxi, parts of Gansu and Shanxi provinces, and some of Ningxia-Hui Autonomous Region. The plateau is 1,000–1,500m in elevation and is filled with loess, a yellowish, loose soil that travels easily in the wind. Eroded loess silt gives the Yellow River its color and name. The Loess Plateau is bound to the east by the Luliang Mountain of Shanxi, which has a narrow basin running north to south along the Fen River. Further east are the Taihang Mountains of Hebei, the dominant topographical feature of North China.

The Bayan Bulak Grasslands in Hejing County of the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang
The tallest peak entirely within China is Shishapangma (8013m, 14th) of the Tibetan Himalayas in Nyalam County of Tibet Autonomous Region
The north face of Mount Everest in the Himalayas from the Tibetan side of the China-Nepal border

The world's tallest mountains, the Karakorum, Pamirs and Tian Shan divide China from South and Central Asia. Eleven of the seventeen tallest mountain peaks on Earth are located on China's western borders. They include the world's tallest peak Mount Everest (8848 m) in the Himalayas on the border with Nepal and the world's second tallest peak, K2 (8611 m) on the border with Pakistan. From these towering heights in the west, the land descends in steps like a terrace.

North of the Himalayas and east of the Karakorum/Pamirs is the vast Tibetan Plateau. It is the largest and highest plateau in the world, and for this reason is also informally known as the "Roof of the World". Its average elevation is 4000 meters above sea level. Its area is 2.5 million square kilometers which is just over a quarter of China's total area. In the north, the plateau is hemmed in by the Kunlun Mountains, which extends eastward from the intersection of the Pamirs, Karakorum and Tian Shan.

Tallest mountain peaks

Besides Mt. Everest and K2, the other 9 of the world's 17 tallest peaks on China's western borders are: Lhotse (8516 m, 4th highest), Makalu (8485 m, 5th), Cho Oyu (8188 m, 6th), Gyachung Kang (7952 m, 15th) of the Himalayas on the border with Nepal and Gasherbrum I (8080 m, 11th), Broad Peak (8051 m, 12th), Gasherbrum II (8035 m, 13th), Gasherbrum III (7946 m, 16th) and Gasherbrum IV (7932 m, 17th) of the Karakorum on the border with Pakistan. The tallest peak entirely within China is Shishapangma (8013 m, 14th) of the Tibetan Himalayas in Nyalam County of Tibet Autonomous Region. In all, 9 of the 14 mountain peaks in the world over 8,000 m are in or on the border of China. Another notable Himalayan peak in China is Namchabarwa (7782 m, 28th), near the great bend of the Yarlungtsanpo (upper Brahmaputra) River in eastern Tibet, and considered to be the eastern anchor of the Himalayas.

Outside the Himalayas and Karakorum, China's tallest peaks are Kongur Tagh (7649 m, 37th) and Muztagh Ata (7546 m, 43rd) in the Pamirs of western Xinjiang, Gongga Shan (7556 m, 41st) in the Great Snowy Mountains of western Sichuan; and Tömür Shan (7439 m, 60th), the highest peak of Tian Shan, on the border with Kyrgyzstan.

Southwestern regions

Main article: Southwestern China

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2023)

Southwestern China is a transition between eastern plains and the high Tibetan plateau; the region is largely mountainous.[5][verification needed]


See also: List of rivers of China

Main rivers of China

China originally had an estimated number of 50,000 rivers. However, due to statistical discrepancies, water and soil loss, and climate change, there are currently only an estimated 22,000 rivers remaining.[6] The rivers in China have a total length of 420,000 kilometers. 1,500 have a catchment area exceeding 1,000 square kilometers. The majority of rivers flow west to east into the Pacific Ocean. The Yangtze (Chang Jiang) rises in Tibet, flows through Central China and enters the East China Sea near Shanghai. The Yangtze is 6,300 kilometers long and has a catchment area of 1.8 million square kilometers. It is the third longest river in the world, after the Amazon and the Nile. The second longest river in China is the Huang He (Yellow River). It rises in Tibet and travels circuitously for 5,464 kilometers through North China, it empties into the Bo Hai Gulf on the north coast of the Shandong Province. It has a catchment area of 752,000 square kilometers. The Heilongjiang (Heilong or Black Dragon River) flows for 3,101 kilometers in Northeast China and an additional 1,249 kilometers in Russia, where it is known as the Amur. The longest river in South China is the Zhujiang (Pearl River), which is 2,214 kilometers long. Along with its three tributaries, the Xi (West), Dong (East), and Bei (North) rivers, it forms the Pearl River Delta near Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Macau, and Hong Kong. Other major rivers are the Liaohe in the northeast, Haihe in the north, Qiantang in the east, and Lancang in the southwest.

West Lake in Hangzhou, at night

Inland drainage involving upland basins in the north and northeast accounts for 40 percent of the country's total drainage area. Many rivers and streams flow into lakes or diminish in the desert. Some are used for irrigation.

China's territorial waters are principally marginal seas of the western Pacific Ocean. These waters lie on the indented coastline of the mainland and approximately 5,000 islands. The Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea are marginal seas of the Pacific Ocean. More than half the coastline, predominantly in the south, is rocky; most of the remainder is sandy. The Bay of Hangzhou roughly divides the two kinds of shoreline.

Northern plain

There is a steep drop in the river level in the North China Plain, where the river continues across the delta, it transports a heavy load of sand and mud which is deposited on the flat plain. The flow is aided by manmade embankments. As a result, the river flows on a raised ridge fifty meters above the plain. Waterlogging, floods, and course changes have recurred over the centuries. Traditionally, rulers were judged by their concern for or indifference to preservation of the embankments.[citation needed] In the modern era, China has undertaken extensive flood control and conservation measures.

Flowing from its source in the Qingzang highlands, the Yellow River courses toward the sea through the North China Plain, the historic center of Chinese expansion and influence. Han Chinese people have farmed the rich alluvial soils since ancient times, constructing the Grand Canal for north–south transport during the Imperial Era. The plain is a continuation of the Dongbei (Manchurian) Plain to the northeast but is separated from it by the Bohai Gulf, an extension of the Yellow Sea.

Like other densely populated areas of China, the plain is subject to floods and earthquakes. The mining and industrial center of Tangshan, 165 km (103 mi) east of Beijing, was leveled by an earthquake in July 1976, it was believed to be the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll.

The Hai River, like the Pearl River, flows from west to east. Its upper course consists of five rivers that converge near Tianjin, then flow seventy kilometers before emptying into the Bohai Gulf. The Huai River, rises in Henan Province and flows through several lakes before joining the Pearl River near Yangzhou.

East and Yangtze

The Qin Mountains, a continuation of the Kunlun Mountains, divides the North China Plain from the Yangtze River Delta and is the major physiographic boundary between the two great parts of China Proper. It is a cultural boundary as it influences the distribution of customs and language. South of the Qinling mountain range divide are the densely populated and highly developed areas of the lower and middle plains of the Yangtze River and, on its upper reaches, the Sichuan Basin, an area encircled by a high barrier of mountain ranges.

The country's longest and most important waterway, the Yangtze River, is navigable for the majority of its length and has a vast hydroelectric potential. Rising on the Qingzang Plateau, the Yangtze River traverses 6,300 km (3,900 mi) through the heart of the country, draining an area of 1,800,000 km2 (690,000 sq mi) before emptying into the East China Sea. Roughly 300 million people live along its middle and lower reaches. The area is a large producer of rice and wheat. The Sichuan Basin, due to its mild, humid climate and long growing season, produces a variety of crops. It is a leading silk-producing area and an important industrial region with substantial mineral resources.

The Nanling Mountains, the southernmost of the east–west mountain ranges, overlook areas in China with a tropical climate. The climate allows two crops of rice to be grown per year. Southeast of the mountains lies a coastal, hilly region of small deltas and narrow valley plains. The drainage area of the Pearl River and its associated network of rivers occupies much of the region to the south. West of the Nanling, the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau rises in two steps, averaging 1,200 and 1,800 m in elevation, respectively, toward the precipitous mountain regions of the eastern Qingzang Plateau.

Geology and natural resources

China has substantial mineral reserves and is the world's largest producer of antimony, natural graphite, tungsten, and zinc. Other major minerals are aluminum, bauxite, coal, crude petroleum, diamonds, gold, iron ore, lead, magnetite, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, natural gas, phosphate rock, tin, uranium, and vanadium. China's hydropower potential is the largest in the world.

Land use

Main article: Land use in China

Based on 2005 estimates, 14.86% (about 1,400,000 km2 (540,000 sq mi)) of China's total land area is arable. About 1.3% (some 116,580 km2) is planted to permanent crops and the rest planted to temporary crops. With comparatively little land planted to permanent crops, intensive agricultural techniques are used to reap harvests that are sufficient to feed the world's largest population and still have surplus for export. An estimated 544,784 km2 of land were irrigated in 2004. 42.9% of total land area was used as pasture, and 17.5% was forest.


Nearly 20 percent of China (about 1,900,000 km2) is desert:

  1. Gobi Desert and Hami Desert - 1,295,000 km2 (with Mongolia)
  2. Dzungaria - 777,000 km2
  3. Taklamakan Desert - 337,000 km2
  4. Ordos Desert - 215,952 km2
  5. Lop Desert - 50,000 km2
  6. Gurbantünggüt Desert - 50,000 km2
  7. Mu Us Desert - 48,288 km2
  8. Badain Jaran Desert - 49,000 km2
  9. Tengger Desert - 36,700 km2
  10. Kubuqi Desert - 18,600 km2
  11. Shapotou, Zhongwei - 5,380 km2
  12. Kumtag Desert - 2,600 km2


Main article: Wildlife of China

China lies in two of the world's major ecozones, the Palearctic and the Indomalaya. In the Palearctic zone mammals such as the horse, camel, and jerboa are found. Among the species found in the Indomalaya region are the leopard cat, bamboo rat, treeshrew, and various other species of monkeys and apes. Some overlap exists between the two regions because of natural dispersal and migration, and deer or antelope, bears, wolves, pigs, and rodents are found in all of the diverse climatic and geological environments. The famous giant panda is found only in a limited area along the Yangtze. There is a continuing problem with trade in endangered species, although there are now laws to prohibit such activities.

Human geography


The Central plain, visible in dark orange

Chinese history is often explained in terms of several strategic areas, defined by particular topographic limits. Starting from the Chinese central plain, the former heart of the Han populations, the Han people expanded militarily and then demographically toward the Loess Plateau, the Sichuan Basin, and the Southern Hills (as defined by the map on the left), not without resistance from local populations. Pushed by its comparatively higher demographic growth, the Han continued their expansion by military and demographic waves. The far-south of present-day China, the northern parts of today's Vietnam, and the Tarim Basin were first reached and durably subdued by the Han dynasty's armies. The Northern steppes were always the source of invasions into China, which culminated in the 13th century by Mongolian conquest of the whole China and creation of Mongolian Yuan dynasty. Manchuria, much of today's Northeast China, and Korean Peninsula were usually not under Chinese control, with the exception of some limited periods of occupation. Manchuria became strongly integrated into the Chinese empire during the late Qing dynasty, while the west side of the Changbai Mountains, formerly the home of Korean tribes, thus also entered China.

Demographic geography

A population density map of the territories governed by the PRC and the ROC. The eastern, coastal provinces are much more densely populated than the western interior because of the historical access to water.

See also: Demographics of China § Population density and distribution

The demographic occupation follows the topography and availability of former arable lands. The Heihe–Tengchong Line, running from Heihe, Heilongjiang to Tengchong County, Yunnan divides China into two roughly equal sections–in terms of geographic area, with areas west of the line being sparsely settled and areas east densely populated, in general. Today there are 5 major religions that have been recognized by the state; Buddhism, Taoism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Islam. Buddhism and folk religions account for roughly 21% of the population while Protestants make up 5% and Islam 1.6% of the population.[7] A substantial number of Buddhists live in the southwestern Tibetan region of the country which borders Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan and most notably India, the birthplace of Buddhism. The Islamic population, consisting mostly of Hui and Uighur Muslims, is concentrated in the northwestern Xinjiang region of the country which shares borders with Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Russia.[8]

Administrative geography

Chinese administrative geography was drawn mainly during the 1949 and 1954 administrative reorganizations. These reorganizations have been the source of much debate within China. In addition, a parcel of land was ceded from Guangdong to Guangxi to grant the latter immediate access to the Gulf of Tonkin, while Hainan was split from Guangdong in 1988 and Chongqing from Sichuan in 1997.


As the country continues to industrialize, the share of agriculture as a part of China's GDP has lowered to 11% in recent years. Of the enormous labor force in China, 27.7% work in agriculture.[9] China's primary agricultural import is wheat from Argentina, Australia, Canada, and France. They import about four to five million metric tons of wheat per year and they are able to buy the wheat for about $700 per ton, making wheat China's most important agricultural import. On the other hand, China's most important agricultural export is rice. China exports about 750,000 metric tons of rice per year for about $1200 per ton.[10] Other significant agricultural exports from China are potatoes, corn, tobacco, peanuts, tea, apples, cotton, pork, mutton, eggs, fish, and shrimp.[9]

According to the World Bank, as of 2015, China's total arable land was estimated at 119,000,000 hectares.[11] Since 2005, arable land in China has been on the decline and the total arable land per citizen has reached .2 acres.[12] As a percentage, agricultural land makes up about 54.7% of land. The climate of the country is difficult to describe because it varies so much depending on the region of China. The southernmost parts of the country are almost tropical, while the northernmost part is subarctic.[13]

Click any region for more info. For a larger version of this map, see here.
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous RegionTibet Autonomous RegionQinghaiGansuSichuanYunnanNingxia Hui Autonomous RegionInner Mongolia Autonomous RegionShaanxiChongqing MunicipalityGuizhouGuangxi Zhuang Autonomous RegionShanxiHenanHubeiHunanGuangdongHainanHebeiHeilongjiangJilinLiaoningBeijing MunicipalityTianjin MunicipalityShandongJiangsuAnhuiShanghai MunicipalityZhejiangJiangxiFujianHong Kong Special Administrative RegionMacau Special Administrative RegionTaiwan

Map of the People's Republic of China (click to enlarge), source: CIA

Territory and boundary disputes

The territory of China has been defined as a homeland for many different ethnic and racial groups in the country. However, the way that the territory has been defined varies between ethnic groups. In relation to the Han Chinese, the homeland has been defined by national borders which are more or less accepted internationally. This is because the Han Chinese are the largest population and have most influence politically than any other ethnic population in China. To the Han Chinese population, the territory of the country is defined by the regions of Tibet, inner Mongolia, Manchuria, and the Xinjiang Province which is the most western land of China. The Chinese territory is the second largest in land area and also has the longest combined land border in the world. However, there are many other ethnic groups in China that have their own definitions of what concerns the territory of China.

One group of people in China are the Tibetans. Tibetans and the land of Tibet are considered by the Han Chinese government to be part of China and that the territory of Tibet is also part of the country. However, many Tibetans disagree and are protesting as well as rallying for freedom in present day. To this ethnic population, the territory of Tibet is not considered part of China and so is not defined as a Chinese territory. However, the Chinese government still consider Tibet as a territory of China which reflects the dispute in definition of Chinese territory between two ethnic groups.

Another group of people which have a dispute in definition of territory are the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese people inhabit the island of Taiwan and are markedly politically different as the people of Taiwan have a free market capitalist based economy while the mainland Chinese government employ a communistic state run economy. There are disputes in the definition of territory between Taiwan and China as the Chinese government claims ownership over Taiwan while some Taiwanese people maintain that they are a sovereign state completely independent from the mainland Chinese government. These disputes have led to international controversy as many countries such as the United States of America have not officially recognized the sovereignty of Taiwan.[14]

Central Asia

China's borders have more than 20,000 km (12,000 mi) of land frontier shared with nearly all the nations of mainland East Asia, and have been disputed at a number of points. In the western sector, China claimed portions of the 41,000 km2 (16,000 sq mi) Pamir Mountains area, a region of soaring mountain peaks and glacier-filled valleys where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the former Soviet Union, and China meet in Central Asia. North and east of this region, some sections of the border remained undemarcated in 1987. The 6,542 kilometres (4,065 mi) frontier with the Soviet Union has been a source of continual friction. In 1954 China published maps showing substantial portions of Soviet Siberian territory as its own. In the northeast, border friction with the Soviet Union produced a tense situation in remote regions of Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang along segments of the Argun River, Amur River, and Ussuri River. Each side had massed troops and had exchanged charges of border provocation in this area. In a September 1986 speech in Vladivostok, the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev offered the Chinese a more conciliatory position on Sino-Soviet border issues. In 1987 the two sides resumed border talks that had been broken off after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (see Sino-Soviet relations). Although the border issue remained unresolved as of late 1987, China and the Soviet Union agreed to consider the northeastern sector first. In October 2004, China signed an agreement with Russia on the delimitation of their entire 4,300 km (2,700 mi)-long border, which had long been in dispute.

Southern border

Eastward from Bhutan and north of the Brahmaputra River (Yarlung Zangbo Jiang) lies a large area controlled and administered by India but claimed by the Chinese. The area was demarcated by the British McMahon Line, drawn along the Himalayas in 1914 as the Sino-Indian border; India accepts and China rejects this boundary. In June 1980 China made its first move in twenty years to settle the border disputes with India, proposing that India cede the Aksai Chin area in Jammu and Kashmir to China in return for China's recognition of the McMahon Line; India did not accept the offer, however, preferring a sector-by-sector approach to the problem. In July 1986 China and India held their seventh round of border talks, but they made little headway toward resolving the dispute. Each side, but primarily India, continued to make allegations of incursions into its territory by the other. Most of the mountainous and militarized boundary with India is still in dispute, but Beijing and New Delhi have committed to begin resolution with discussions on the least disputed middle sector. India does not recognize Pakistan's ceding lands to China in a 1964 boundary agreement.

The China-Burma border issue was settled 1 October 1960, by the signing of the Sino-Burmese Boundary Treaty. The first joint inspection of the border was completed successfully in June 1986.

India: On 15 May 2015, Mr. Li from China and Mr. Modi from India held talks at the Great Hall of the people during Modi's China tour. The two leaders held talks on border disputes that began in 1914 when the British still controlled India and signed an agreement with Tibet to make the McMahon line the de facto boundary between India and China, even though China had rejected this agreement. Both countries had various claims to disputed territories such as the South Tibetan region of Zangnan which is considered to be part of the Arunachal Pradesh state in India. So far there have been only talks and no solutions and tensions continue to rise as each country continues to increase regional influences.[15]


China is involved in a complex dispute with Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei over the Spratly (Nansha) Islands in the South China Sea. The 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" eased tensions but fell short of a legally binding code of conduct desired by several of the disputants. China also controls the Paracel (Xisha) Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, and asserts a claim to the Japanese-administered Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea.

South China Sea: On 16 June 2011, the Chinese government sent out one of its largest patrol ships known as the Haixun-31 which the Chinese government describe as routine. The ship will pass the Paracel and Spratly Islands and make its way up from the Malaysian to Filipino coast. Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia all have competing claims to the Spratlys Islands while Beijing and Hanoi are in dispute over the Paracel islands. Hanoi has proposed a multilateral solution between the Asian countries but China says that it prefers to negotiate with individual states separately.[16]

Border security

The security and strength of the Chinese borders vary depending on the location of the section of the border in question. This is due to the nature of the borders as well as the physical geography of the country. China has a large territory, about the same size as the United States, but the actual distribution of population is highly disproportionate. Sixty percent of the population live on the east coast of China which is only 22 percent of its territory while the other 78 percent lying inland is sparsely populated with ethnic minorities such as Tibetans, Kazakhs, Uighurs, and other Chinese Muslim groups. Many of these groups have little to no loyalty to the central government of China further adding to the strained security of China's borders. The regions of Xinjiang and Tibet in particular harbor strong separatist movements[14]

Tibet: Many Tibetans protest and actively support the Dalai Lama who lives in exile in what he calls "autonomous Tibet". The Chinese authorities charge him of promoting Tibetan independence and will not allow him to come back into the country or he will face arrest. In May 2018, a Tibetan activist known as Tashi Wangchuk was sentenced to prison for 5 years as he voiced his concerns over that Tibetan culture was being destroyed by the Chinese government. Amnesty International denounced this sentencing to be "beyond absurd" but his release is still dated to be in 2021.[17]

Xinjiang: In the region of Xinjiang, Uighur separatists have engaged in acts of violence to promote independence. These Chinese Muslims have garnered support from neighboring areas in central Asia and Turkey both politically and economically. However, many of these efforts have been shut down by Chinese officials. The Xinjiang region is facing large scale immigration of Han Chinese people but the Uighurs still make up 8 out of the 19 million inhabitants. In August 2018, a UN human rights panel cited "creditable reports" that more than one million people in the region were being held in counter extremism centers in Xinjiang but Chinese officials claimed that only "religious extremist" Uighurs were undergoing re-education and resettlement.[18]

China-Russia Relations: China and the Soviet Union signed an alliance in 1950 building on their communist relations that dated back to the 1920s. In the wake of the 1960s Sino-Soviet split, and for 25 years after the split, the border between China and Russia was one of the most unfriendly borders in the world. At one point over "one and a half million troops armed with nuclear weapons" were installed along the two sides of the border. Relations improved in the mid-1980s but this is due to Russia's decrease in power and threat to the Chinese government.[14]

Due to China's ancient history and central location in the geography of Asia, it is surrounded by potential enemies and many complicated rivalries. The government plays the fine line between domination and cooperation in order to preserve their national identity and borders. However, due to the nature of their political geography, the borders are very much volatile and disputes continue to exist in different areas of the border.

Tajikistan: On 13 January 2011, the country of Tajikistan agrees to cede land to the Chinese government. The Tajik parliament voted to ratify a 1999 deal to cede 1000 square kilometers of land in the remote Pamir Mountain range which the Chinese claim thoroughly resolved the century long border dispute. China is the largest investor in the Tajik economy especially in the energy and infrastructure sectors.[19]

Climate and environment


See also: Hot summer cold winter zone

Köppen climate types of China

Owing to tremendous differences in latitude, longitude, and altitude, the climate of China is extremely diverse, ranging from tropical in the far south to subarctic in the far north and alpine in the higher elevations of the Tibetan Plateau. Monsoon winds, caused by differences in the heat-absorbing capacity of the continent and the ocean, dominate the climate. During the summer, the East Asian Monsoon carries warm and moist air from the south and delivers the vast majority of the annual precipitation in much of the country. Conversely, the Siberian anticyclone dominates during winter, bringing cold and comparatively dry conditions. The advance and retreat of the monsoons account in large degree for the timing of the rainy season throughout the country. Although most of the country lies in the temperate belt, its climatic patterns are complex.

The northern extremities of both Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia have a subarctic climate; in contrast, most of Hainan Island and parts of the extreme southern fringes of Yunnan have a tropical climate. Temperature differences in winter are considerable, but in summer the variance is considerably less. For example, Mohe County, Heilongjiang has a 24-hour average temperature in January approaching −30 °C (−22 °F), while the corresponding figure in July exceeds 18 °C (64 °F). By contrast, most of Hainan has a January mean in excess of 17 °C (63 °F), while the July mean there is generally above 28 °C (82 °F).

Precipitation is almost invariably concentrated in the warmer months, though annual totals range from less than 20 millimetres (0.8 in) in northwestern Qinghai and the Turpan Depression of Xinjiang to easily exceeding 2,000 millimetres (79 in) in Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan. Only in some pockets of the Dzungaria region of Xinjiang is the conspicuous seasonal variation in precipitation that defines Chinese (and, to a large extent, East Asian) climate absent.

Annual sunshine duration ranges from less than 1,100 hours in parts of Sichuan and Chongqing to over 3,400 hours in northwestern Qinghai. Seasonal patterns in sunshine vary considerably by region, but overall, the north and the Tibetan Plateau are sunnier than the south of the country.


Main article: Environment of China

Air pollution (sulfur dioxide particulates) from reliance on coal is a major issue, along with water pollution from untreated wastes and use of debated standards of pollutant concentration rather than Total Maximum Daily Load. There are water shortages, particularly in the north. The eastern part of China often experiences smoke and dense fog in the atmosphere as a result of industrial pollution. Heavy deforestation with an estimated loss of one-fifth of agricultural land since 1949 to soil erosion and economic development is occurring with resulting desertification.

China is a party to the Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Climate Change treaty, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Endangered Species treaty, the Hazardous Wastes treaty, the Law of the Sea, the International Tropical Timber Agreements of 1983 and 1994, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, and agreements on Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, and Wetlands protection. China has signed, but not ratified, the Kyoto Protocol (but is not yet required to reduce its carbon emission under the agreement, as is India) and the Nuclear Test Ban treaty.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "China". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  2. ^ Based on the 1999 and 2005 surveys of elevation of snow cap, not rock head. For more details, see Surveys.
  3. ^ "Yangtze River". University of Washington. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  4. ^ CIA (October 1967), Communist China Map Folio, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
  5. ^ Atlas of China. Beijing, China: SinoMaps Press. 2006. ISBN 9787503141782.
  6. ^ Hsu, Angel; Miao, William (29 April 2013). "28,000 Rivers Disappeared in China: What Happened?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  7. ^ "The State of Religion in China". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  8. ^ "This fascinating map shows the new religious breakdown in China". Business Insider. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  9. ^ a b "East Asia/Southeast Asia :: China — The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  10. ^ Mah, Feng-Hwa (1971). "Why China Imports Wheat". The China Quarterly. 45 (45): 116–128. doi:10.1017/S0305741000010456. JSTOR 651886. S2CID 153871544.
  11. ^ "Arable land (hectares) | Data". Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  12. ^ "Farming the World: China's Epic Race to Avoid a Food Crisis". Bloomberg. 22 May 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  13. ^ "East Asia/Southeast Asia :: China — The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  14. ^ a b c Chung, Jae Ho (21 September 2017). "China Goes Local (Again)". Centrifugal Empire. Vol. 1. Columbia University Press. doi:10.7312/columbia/9780231176200.003.0002. ISBN 9780231176200.
  15. ^ "India and China 'to resolve dispute'". BBC News. 15 May 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  16. ^ "China sends ship to disputed sea". BBC News. 16 June 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  17. ^ "Tibet activist jailed after NYT video". BBC News. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  18. ^ "Xinjiang profile". BBC News. 12 October 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  19. ^ "Tajikistan cedes land to China". BBC News. 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2018.

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