The Longest Rivers In China

Ships on the Yangzte River.
Ships on the Yangzte River.

China has a wealth of freshwater resources and is home to some of the most famous and longest rivers in not only Asia, but the world as a whole. These rivers play very significant role in the economy of the country. Some of the economic activities carried out in these rivers include fishing, hydroelectric power generation, source of water for irrigation and major tourist attraction sites. China Rivers also have traditional and cultural significance to those living around them. Some of the longest rivers in China are looked at below.


The River Yangtze is the longest river in China. In fact, it is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world with a length of 3,917 miles. Futhermore, the river is the longest in the world to flow in a single country and the sixth largest river by discharge volume. The Yangtze River drains 20% of the land area of China while its river basin is home to a third of China’s population. The river plays a significant role in culture, history and economy of China generating 20% of the country’s GDP. River Yangtze is home to 416 species of fish of which 360 species are freshwater fish making it the most fish rich river in Asia. The river is also home to other animals including finless porpoises, fresh water crabs, and newts. The river is also a major tourist attraction site for visitors around the world. River Yangtze is threatened by its commercial use, industrial pollution, silt and sediment buildup, and agricultural runoff.


The Yellow River is the second longest river in China and the third longest in Asia. It is also the sixth longest river in the world, running 3,395 miles from its source waters to its mouth, where it empties into the Bohia Sea in the Shandong province. Over this course, the river flows through nine Chinese provinces. The basin of Yellow River is the cradle of ancient civilization that flourished in the early Chinese history. However, the frequent floods and the rising riverbed made the Chinese to relocate from the basin. The river is known for the huge amount of silt it carries annually making it a depositing stream. Major hydroelectric power stations are built on Yellow River. The river does not support a very dense population of fish or shellfish, yet is home to a number of China’s more well-known turtles. Almost a third of the river is unsuitable for use because of pollution caused by factory discharge and sewage from the neighboring cities.


The Ob River is the seventh longest river in the world, with its main course largely lying in Russia, and receiving tributaries from China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. The River Ob splits into multiple arms after joining the Irtysh tributary in China where it forms the Ob-Irtysh River system, which is the fourth longest river system in Asia. Ob-Irtysh River is mainly used for irrigation and generation of hydroelectric power. The river is also a major source of fishing with over 50 species of fish and a source of drinking water. The Mayak power plants released large quantities of radioactively contaminated water into River Ob-Irtysh which has caused a huge pollution to the river. Human activities around the lake also threaten to contaminate the river.

Other major river systems reaching into China include the Amur-Argun, the Mekong, the Indus, the Salween, the Brahmaputra–Tsangpo, the Ganges–Hooghly–Padma, and the Pearl-Zhujiang. Each of these river systems are shared with other neighboring Asian countries.

The Longest Rivers In China

RankLongest River Systems in ChinaLength (countries shared with)
1Yangtze3,917 miles
2Yellow3,395 miles
3Ob-Irtysh3,364 miles (shared with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia)
4Amur-Argun 2,763 miles(shared with Russia and Mongolia)
2,705 miles (shared with 5 Indochinese nations)
6Indus1,976 miles (shared with Pakistan and India)
1,901 miles (shared with Myanmar and Thailand)
1,832 miles (shared with India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh)
1,628 miles (shared with India, Bangladesh, and Nepal)
1,376 miles (shared with Vietnam)

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