Topography of China

Located in the east of the Asian continent, on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean, China has a land area of about 9.6 million sq km, and is the third-largest country in the world, next only to Russia and Canada.

From north to south, the territory of China stretches from the center of the Heilong River north of the town of Mohe to the Zengmu Reef at the southernmost tip of the Nansha Islands, covering a distance of 5,500 km. From east to west, the nation extends from the confluence of the Heilong and Wusuli rivers to the Pamirs, covering a distance of 5,200 km.

With a land boundary of some 22,800 km, China is bordered by 14 counties, Korea to the east; Mongolia to the north; Russia to the northeast; Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the northwest; Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan to the west and southwest; and Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam to the south. Across the seas to the east and southeast are the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

China's mainland coastline measures approximately 18,000 km, with a flat topography, and many excellent docks and harbors, most of which are ice-free all year round. The Chinese mainland is flanked to the east and south by the Bohai, Yellow, East China and South China seas, with a total maritime area of 4.73 million sq km. The Bohai Sea is China's continental sea, while the Yellow, East China and South China seas are marginal seas of the Pacific Ocean.

A total of 5,400 islands dot China's territorial waters. The largest of these, with an area of about 36,000 sq km, is Taiwan, followed by Hainan with an area of 34,000 sq km. The Diaoyu and Chiwei islands, located to the northeast of Taiwan Island, are China's easternmost islands. The many islands, islets, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea, known collectively as the South China Sea Islands, are China's southernmost island group. They are called the Dongsha (East Sandbar), Xisha (West Sandbar), Zhongsha (Middle Sandbar) and Nansha (South Sandbar) island groups according to their geographical locations.

The topography varies greatly in China, a vast land of high plateau, large plains, hilly area (foothill) and big or small basins surrounded by high mountains. All the five basic topographic types in the world you can find in China.
Mountainous land, plateaus and foothills make up 2/3 of Chinese territory.  (And this has created some problems in transport and in the development of agricultural production. However such topographical features are conducive to the development of forestry, mineral and hydropower resources and tourism.)
 
With highlands in the west and plains in the east, China has a varied topography. The terrain gradually descends from west to east like a staircase. The lie of the land may be divided into three tiers. Due to the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau rose continuously to become the top of the four-step staircase, averaging more than 4,000m above sea level, and called (the roof of the world). The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in the southwest of China forms the highest tier. It is a land of peaks and valleys studded with innumerable lakes. Along the plateau's southwestern fringe is the Himalayan Range, on the eastern section of which looms the 8, 848. 13 meter-high Mt. Qomolangma (Mt. Everest), the main peak of Himalayas, the world's highest peak.
 
The vast area north and east of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, lying north and east line running from Mt. Kunlunthat, Mt.Qilian and Mt.Hengduan drops to an elevation between 1, 100 and 2, 000m forms the second tier(second step of the staircase)-a land interspersed with extensive basins, plateaus, highlands and plains. There are the gently sloping Inner Mongolia Plateau, the Loess Plateau in the north, the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau in the south, the Tarim Basin, the Junggar Basin and Suchuan Basin. Here the Turpan Basin in Xinjiang is 154m below sea-level-the lowest depression in China, second-lowest depression in the world.
 
The third tier(third step of the staircase) is a vast area of foothills and plains with an elevation between 500m and 1,000m, lying east of the line running from the Greater Hinggan and Taihang ranges in the north to the foothills of the Wushan Mountains and the Xuefengshan Mountains, and extends eastward to the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Some peaks of mountains in this area are as high as 2, 000m, the plains along the coast have an elevation of less than 50m. Here,from north to south,are the Northeast Plain, the North China Plain ,the Middle-Lower Yangze River Plain and Zhujian Delta. Interspersed amongst the plains are Hills and foothills.
 
Off the Chinese coast is an extensive continental shelf, the fourth step of the staircase, richly endowed with petroleum, natural gas and marine products. The water here is mostly less than 200m deep.