By Nicholas Miller


China’s land mass encompasses an estimated 9,600,000 km and has an estimated 1.3 billion population, which is about 21% of the world population, on only 21% of earth’s total land mass.[1] Western China topography is generally high and mountainous, with the exception of  Turfan Basin in Xinjiang province. Throughout most of China’s ancient history this region was never heavily populated as the climate was extremely dry and inhospitable. Within Western China there are vast untapped natural resources – petroleum, natural gases, precious metals, etc that are needed to sustain China’s economic growth. The mountains and plateus of Western China has, in the past, prevented economic development and national integration from occuring but during the Hu Jintao Administration there has been an increased focus on balancing the regional development inequality that occurred during Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin by bringing in more economic resources and transportation to these frontier regions.[2]
China’s vast geography has led to a large diversity within its regional barriers and local climates. One of the largest environmental divisions stem from the Qinling Mountains that extend east to the East China Sea along the Huai River.  The Qinling Mountain divides China into regions of water surplus and deficit.[3] It is because of this regional divide that Southern China, southern parts of the North China plain, and the Northeastern Plain where there is more annual rainfall that provides ample supplies for their groundwater. The majority of Western China and everything north of Qingling Shan are heavily water deficient regions.[4] Central and Southern China  monsoons are a frequent affected by the summer monsoons. Northern China receives less rainfall then South. Southern China is more typified by humid and subtropical climate.
One of the major rivers of China is the Huang He (Yellow River) and its tributaries – Wei, Fen, Luo have had a vital role in the Chinese civilization since ancient times. It is the second largest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and is estimated 5,464 kilometres.[5] The Yellow River’s name stems from the appearance of its ochre-yellow colour within its water. Throughout China’s history the Yellow River has had a history of flooding. One of the current environmental concerns facing the Yellow River is the severe pollution has rendered over one-third of the river unusable because due to factory pollution and sewage from its cities.[6]
  • Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges Dam is one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world and one of most controversial projects undertaken by the CCP. The plan was to undertake the damming of Chiang Jiang river near Yichang and the estimated cost has been $25 billion. The Chinese government has had to relocate in 1.24 million of its citizens to accommodate the Dam.[7] In addition to the relocation of citizens near the dam questions have arose over the environmental and ecological damage leading to conflicts land shortages, concerns over water pollution, and landslides.[8]

[1] Gregory Veeck, et al, China’s Geography: Globalization and the Dynamics of Political, Economic, and Social Change, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Plymouth, 2007, p.15
[2] “Efforts to boost ‘leapfrog development’ in Xinjiang,” China Daily, 07/05/2010;
[3] Gregory Veeck, et al, China’s Geography: Globalization and the Dynamics of Political, Economic, and Social Change, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Plymouth, 2007, p. 17
[4] Gregory Veeck, p. 17
[6] Tania Branigan, “One-third of China’s Yellow River ‘unfit for drinking or agriculture,’ The Guardian,11/25/2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/nov/25/water-china
[7] “Millions forced out by China dam,” BBC, 10/12/2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7042660.stm
[8] Elizabeth Economy, “China’s Environmental Challenge: Political, Social, and Economic Implications,” Council of Foreign Relations, 1/27/2003, http://www.cfr.org/china/chinas-environmental-challenge-political-social-economic-implications/p5573

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