The People's Republic of China is the world's third largest country in area (after Russia and Canada) and the most populous. It is bounded on the north by the Republic of Mongolia and Russia; on the north-east by Russia and North Korea; on the east by the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea; on the south by the South China Sea, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, India, Bhutan, and Nepal; on the west by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan; and on the north-west by Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

China includes more than 3 400 offshore islands. Its total area is 9 596 960 km2, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Hong Kong, formerly a British territory, reverted to China in 1997. Macau returned to Chinese administration in 1999.

China encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and a corresponding variety of natural resources. It ranges from sub-arctic regions in the north and west to tropical lowlands in the south; from fertile plains in the east to deserts in the west. China may be divided into six major geographic regions, each of which contains considerable geomorphological and topographic diversity.

  • The Northwest region consists of two basins - the Junggar Basin in the north and the Tarim Basin in the south - and the lofty Tien Shan Mountains. The Tarim Basin contains the vast sandy Takla Makan, one of the worlds the driest deserts. The Turpan Depression, the lowest point in China, lies 154 m below sea level. The Junggar Basin, although containing areas of sandy and stony desert, is primarily a region of fertile steppe soils and supports irrigated agriculture.

  • The Mongolian Steppe, located in north central China, lies between the Gobi Desert and the Eastern Lowlands It is a plateau region consisting mainly of sandy, stony, or gravelly deserts that grade eastward into steppe lands with fertile soils.

    The north central region is characterised by flat-to-rolling plains, divided by several barren flat-topped mountain ranges. Along its eastern border is the higher, rugged, forested Greater Khingan Range.

    The southern part of the region is thickly covered with loess, a fertile, yellowish soil deposited by the wind. The Huang He and its tributaries have carved out hills and steep-sided valleys in the soft soil. The name Huang He means Yellow River and comes from the large amounts of loess carried by the river.

  • Comprising all of Manchuria east of the Greater Khingan Range, the Northeast region incorporates the Manchurian Plain and its bordering uplands. The plain has extensive tracts of productive soils. The uplands are hilly to mountainous, with numerous broad valleys and gentle slopes. The highest hills are the Changbai Mountains (Long White Mountains) along the Korean border. To the north, the Amur River forms the border with Russia.

  • North China lies between the Mongolian Steppe on the north and the Changjiang River Basin on the south and consists of several distinct topographic units. The Huangtu Plateau in the north-west is formed by the accumulation of loess. The Huabei Pingyuan (North China Plain), the largest flat lowland area in China, consists of fertile soils derived from loess. Located to the east, the Shandong Plateau on the Shandong Peninsula consists of two distinct areas of mountains flanked by rolling hills. To the south-west are several mountain ranges that constitute a barrier to north-south movement.

  • The South China region incorporates the Changjiang (Yangtze) River valley and the topographically diverse regions to the south. The Changjiang valley consists of a series of basins with fertile alluvial soils. The lowlands are criss-crossed with waterways, both natural and artificial, and dotted with lakes. The Sichuan Basin, located to the west, is enclosed by rugged spurs of several mountain ranges and constitutes a relatively isolated area of hilly terrain.

    The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

last updated:  Monday, May 28, 2012