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Natural resources

Natural resources are an important component of natural conditions. They include mainly land resources, water resources, climatic resources, biological resources and mineral resources. China has rich natural resources.

Being a vast country, China first of all has rich land resources. The country's farmland covers 122,400 sq. km, about 10% of its total land area, and is distributed mainly in plain areas in northeast China, north China, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze, the Sichuan Basin and the Pearl River Delta. Agriculture is highly developed in these areas, which are major producers of wheat, corn, rice and cash crops. The country has 67,500 sq. km of fresh water lakes -- production bases for fish, shrimps and other aquatic products.

With regard to water resources: China's average total rainfall in a year amounts to 6 trillion cubic meters; the total runoff of its rivers is 2.7 trillion cubic meters; and its total water resources reach 2.8 trillion cubic meters, to rank sixth in the world, after Brazil, Russia, Canada, the United States and Indonesia. Theoretical hydropower resources provided by the country's rivers amount to 676 million kw, of Which 378 million kw can be exploited for power generation, ranking first in the world. The distribution of such hydropower resources is uneven: they are concentrated in southwest China.

China has deposits of every one of the 150 minerals found so far in the natural world. The amount of proven deposits in the country has been made clear for 135 of them. Of these, more than 20 rank in the forefront of the world. Ranking first in the world, in proven deposits, are 12 minerals: tungsten, antimony, titanium, vanadium, zinc, rare earth, magnesite, pyrite, fluorite, barite, plaster stone and graphite; ranking second and third are six: tin, mercury, asbestos, talcum, coal and molybdenum; and ranking fourth are five: nickel, lead, iron, manganese and the platinum family. China ranks third in the world in the deposit of 45 important minerals. It is one of a few countries where mineral deposits are rich and varieties are fairly complete.

China has fairly rich plant and animal resources. It is home to 32,800 higher plant varieties and 104,000 animal varieties. Among them are some that are quite rare, including the giant panda, the golden monkey, the Yangtze alligator, white-flag dolphin, the metasequoia and the dove tree – all are "living fossils" that are found nowhere else. To protect wildlife and its ecological environment, China has built a fairly big number of nature reserves, including fourteen that are part of the United Nations' "Man and Biosphere" nature reserve system.

China also has vast tidal beach land and rich marine resources. Of its 280,000 sq. km of offcoast sea areas, 260,000 sq. km are fit for aquiculture. Its tidal beach land covers 20,800 sq. km. The country's salt pans produce 17 million tons of salt a year, one third of the world's total. This output ranks China as the biggest salt producer in the world. Marine fish varieties number more than 2,600, including more than 50 that are of high economic value. The country's marine fishing Industry and aquiculture are of considerable size. In the country's territorial waters have been found more than 20 minerals, including petroleum, natural gas, iron, copper, phosphorite and glauconite. Extraction has begun for some of them. Petroleum, for example, is being produced from the Beibu Gulf of the South China Sea and from the Bohai Sea off north China. China's marine energy resources are estimated to reach 540 million kw. Development on a small scale has also begun. For example, tidal waves have been used to generate power.

In absolute terms, China indeed abounds in natural resources of various kinds. But, owing to its huge population, its per-capita natural resources, such as land, water and mineral resources, are not rich. Besides, the geographical distribution of its natural resources is not even. Take coal for example: of more than 760 billion tons of total coal deposits, more than 70% are concentrated in Shanxi, Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia, whereas only 1.4% is found in nine provinces in southern China. Of proven recoverable oil deposits, most are found in northeast China, northwest China and coastal areas of north China. 70% of natural gas deposits is concentrated in Sichuan and Shaanxi. The geographical distribution of water is also extremely uneven: in southern China -- areas south of the Huaihe river and the Qinling range, while farmland accounts for only 36.3% of the national total, water resources make up 82.3% of the national total; whereas, in northern China, farmland accounts for 63.7% of the national total, water resources make up only 17.7% of the national total; in northwest China, water is even more scarce: while it has one third of the national land area, its water resources account for only 5% of the na tional total. The distribution of hydropower is also uneven: 70% of the national total is concentrated in southwest China. The Chinese government has been taking measures to deal with the problem. Researches on the issue have been strengthened and overall planning conducted. Concrete measures include the construction of railways to trans- port more coal from the north to the south and the building of a giant water diversion project to channel water from the Yangtze to the Yellow River to quench thirst in north China and northwest China.


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