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Land and Mineral Resources
2004/10/27

Cultivated land, forests, grasslands, deserts and tidelands are distributed widely across China. Cultivated land is mainly located in east China, grasslands are mainly located in north and west China, and forests mainly in the remote northeastern and southwestern areas.

In China today, 130.04 million ha of land are cultivated, mainly on the Northeast Plain, the North China Plain, the Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain, the Pearl River Delta and the Sichuan Basin. The fertile black soil of the Northeast Plain, the largest plain in China with an area of more than 350,000 sq km, abounds in wheat, corn, sorghum, soybeans, flax and sugarbeet. The deep, brown topsoil of the North China Plain is planted with wheat, corn, millet and cotton. The Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain’s flat terrain and many lakes and rivers make it particularly suitable for paddy rice and freshwater fish, hence its designation of “land of fish and rice.” This area also produces large quantities of tea and silkworms. The purplish soil of the warm and humid Sichuan Basin is green with crops in all four seasons, including paddy rice, rapeseed and sugarcane, making it known as the “land of plenty.” The Pearl River Delta abounds with paddy rice, gathered 2-3 times every year.

Forests cover only 158.94 million ha of China. The Greater Hinggan, Lesser Hinggan and Changbai mountain ranges in the northeast are China’s largest natural forest areas. Major tree species found here include conifers, such as Korean pine, larch and Olga Bay larch, and coniferous-broadleaf trees such as white birch, oak, willow, elm and Northeast China ash. Major tree species in the southwest include the dragon spruce, fir and Yunnan pine, as well as teak, red sandalwood, camphor, nanmu and padauk. Often called a “kingdom of plants,” Xishuangbanna in the south of Yunnan Province is a rare tropical broadleaf forest area in China, playing host to more than 5,000 plant species.

Grasslands in China cover an area of 400 million ha, stretching more than 3,000 km from the northeast to the southwest. They are the centers of animal husbandry. The Inner Mongolian Prairie is China’s largest natural pastureland, and home to the famous Sanhe horses, Sanhe cattle and Mongolian sheep. The important natural pasturelands north and south of the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang are ideal for stock breeding. The famous Ili horses and Xinjiang fine-wool sheep are raised here.

China’s cultivated lands, forests and grasslands are among the world’s largest in terms of sheer area. But due to China’s large population, the areas of cultivated land, forest and grassland per capita are small, especially in the case of cultivated land—only one third of the world’s average.

China is rich in mineral resources, and all the world’s known minerals can be found here. To date, geologists have confirmed reserves of 153 different minerals, putting China third in the world in total reserves. The reserves of the major mineral resources, such as coal, iron, copper, aluminum, stibium, molybdenum, manganese, tin, lead, zinc and mercury, are in the world’s front rank. China’s coal reserves total 1,007.1 billion tons, mainly distributed in north China, with Shanxi Province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region taking the lead. China’s 46.35 billion tons of iron ore are mainly distributed in northeast, north and southwest China. The country also abounds in petroleum, natural gas, oil shale, phosphorus and sulphur. Petroleum reserves are mainly found in the northwest, northeast and north China, as well as in the continental shelves of east China. The national reserves of rare earth metals far exceed the combined total for the rest of the world.

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