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About China

Geography

Topography | Resources | Ecology-Environment

AFrom majestic snow-capped Himalayan peaks and lush Tarim basin oases to Hainan Island's tropical white-sand beaches and Yunnan's surreal Stone forest, China's diverse geographic landscape offers travelers a wealth of unique destination.

Covering an area of 9,560,900 Km2 (3,691,500 Sq Mi) which is roughly the same size as the whole of Europe (excluding Russia), China is the third largest country in the world, after Russia and Canada with a border of 20,000 Km (12,500 Mi). Its neighbouring countries are North Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sikkim , Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), laos and Vitnam. The distance from the northernmost town of Mohe located on the northeastern border with Russia, to the Zhengmu Reef on the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea is 5,500 Km (3,420 Mi). East to west from the eastern border in the Pamir Mountains to the confluence of the Heilongjiang River and Wusulijiang River is 5,200 Kms (3,200 Mi).

Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are originally Chinese territory. Hong Kong and Macau have respectively returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and 1999.

On the southeastern islands, winter is warm and people enjoy tropical fruits, while at the same time the northeast is paralysed by the Siberian frosts and icy winds. Some parts of Tibet endure perpetual frost, while crops grow year-round in Guangdong and southern Yunnan.

[ Topography ]

Topographically, China is 35 percent mountains, 27 percent plateau, 17 percent basin or desert, 8 percent hilly areas, and 13 percent plains. Only about 11 percent of the land area suitable for farming feeds the heaviest population in the world. The highest population densities are along the coast.

The land surface is a bit like a staircase descending from west to east. Mount Qomolangma (Everest), the highest peak in the world, stands 8848m above sea level, while Lake Aydingkol in theTurpan Basin is the second lowest point (-154m) on earth. Barren terrain covers much of the western frontier. The forbidding Gobi and Taklamakan deserts separate China from Central and North Asia. With an average elevation of over 5,000m, the desolate Tibet-Qinghai Plateau, occasionally called the "Roof of the World" with good reason, is the largest and highest on earth. Melting snow and ice form the Plateau provides the headwaters for two largest rivers, the Yangzi River (Changjiang, literally, "Long River") and the Yellow River (Huanghe ).

The Yangzi River (6,300km), the longest river in China and the third longest in the world after the Nile and the Amazon, winds through the scenic Three Gorges and the fertile, rice-pruducing Dongting-Boyang Lake region the East China Sea. It is also China's most navigable river, serving the important industrial centers of Shanghai, Chongqing, Wuhan, Ningbo, and Nanjing. With no natural north-south waterways, central China relies on the 1,000km Grand Canal, which is the longest artificial canal in the world, built between Bingjing and Hangzhou in the 7th century, for water transport. Despite recent restorations, only a third of the canal is usable today.

At 5,464km, the Yellow River is China's second longest, as well as the world's most heavily sedimented. Roaring through the Loess Plateau in northern China, the river carries away 1.6 billion tons of yellow, powdery soil into the Bohai Sea every year. The Yellow River valley is birthplace of Chinese civilisation, hence rich with historical sites and ancient capitals such as Anyang, Luoyang, and Xi'an.

The alluvial plains irrigated by these two river systems for China proper, the country's heartland and the traditional area of Chinese influence. Beyongd China's historic northern boundary, the Great Wall, bordering Siberia, is the northeast region which is covered with the forested ridges of Greater and Lesser Xing'an to the north and the rolling Dongbei Plains to the south. The warm water harbors of Dalian and Lushun lie at the tip of the Liaodong Peninsula.

Perhaps the single most important climate-determining feature in central China, the Qinling Mountains near Xi'an shield the Eastern Plains from the dry air of the arid northwest. To the south, the Yunna-Guizhou Plateau separates the subtropical southwest from the temperate eastern seaboard. Sealed between the highlands of these two barriersis the flat and lush Sichuan Basin, a historically isolated but prosperous region.

[ Resources ]

China is a country rich in natural resources. Coal exists in abundant reserves, ranking second in the world, and is used for three-quarters of the country's energy. Chinese oil production easily rates in the world's top ten, with oil fields located mainly in the north and northwest. Furthermore, in production of gold, tin mercury, aluminum, tungsten and barite, China is amongst the world's top producers.

Fertile soil is found in the south and east of country. China is already the world's largest producer of rice, wheat, and yams, yet I tmust fed a population that has exceeded 1.3 billion. This is one of the most serious problems of the Chinese economy to feed such a huge population by only 11 percent of the total land which agriculturally useful.

[ Ecology-Environment ]

China has a very long history of development and exploitation of its natural resources on the cost of damage of ecology and environment pollution. The good news is that the Chinese are acutely aware of both the short and long term effects of continuing degradation of grassland, forest, cropland, aquatic and coastal ecosystems. The control of pollution has become an issue of great concern for the government which encourages afforestation and the protection of forests and focuses on the prediction, prevention and eradication of pollution throughout the country. The endangered plants and animals are protected in the reserves as well as adjacent areas. The animals on the list include the giant panda, snow leopard, Yangzi River dolphin, South China tiger, crested ibis etc.

The shortage of funds and limited technology as well as the large amount and many types of pollutants released make environmental protection difficult. However, the Chinese government has promised further investment and effort and a closer cooperation on the international level is called for.