What Are The Major Natural Resources Of China?

By Benjamin Elisha Sawe on January 8 2019 in Economics

A coal mining operation in China.
A coal mining operation in China.

The Chinese economy is one of the world's most important economies. In 2017, according to the World Bank, the Chinese gross domestic product was the 2nd highest in the world standing at $2.24 trillion. On the other hand, in 2017 the Chinese per capita gross domestic product was approximately $8,827, which was the 72nd highest globally according to the International Monetary Fund. The Chinese economy is reliant on several of its natural resources such as fish, arable land, and minerals among others.


Water is one of China's most critical natural resources since it is used for different purposes such as generating electricity and irrigating farms. Hydroelectricity is one of China's most important energy sources since it is the country's largest and most valuable renewable energy source. The Chinese government has facilitated the growth of the hydropower sector to ensure that China has sufficient energy to meet its energy requirements. China has the world’s largest hydroelectricity projects such as the Three Gorges Dam, the Xiluodu Dam, and the Ertan Dam. After its completion in 2012, the Three Gorges Dam became the world’s largest hydroelectric plant after dislodging the Itaipu Hydro Power Plant in Brazil and Paraguay. The power plant is generating 22,500 megawatts, while the Itaipu Dam is generating 14, 000 megawatts of electricity. The Chinese hydropower sector faces some significant challenges such as fluctuating water levels in the rivers and the low productivity of the country's hydropower plants.

Arable Land

In 2015, statistics from the World Bank indicated that roughly 12.7% of China's territory was considered arable land. The UN estimated that Chinese arable land only accounted for 7% of the world's entire arable land. Since 2006, the size of arable land in China has been decreasing, but due to several government initiatives, the size of arable land in China increased tremendously in 2015. Agriculture is a vital economic activity in China as it employs nearly 300 million individuals. Agriculture is also critical to the Chinese economy since it contributes huge sums of money to the nation's gross domestic product, and in 2016, estimates from the Chinese government indicated that the agriculture sector provided close to 8.7% of the country's gross domestic product. China produces more agricultural products than any other nation on earth. Due to China's massive size, Chinese farmers grow a wide variety of crops such as rice, tea, cotton, and wheat. Chinese agriculture faces numerous challenges such as crop diseases and natural calamities such as floods and droughts. The Chinese government is actively encouraging farmers to use modern farming methods to increase the country's agricultural output. Chinese farmers have readily taken up the use of machinery in their agricultural practices with some farmers using unmanned aerial vehicles.


Rice is an essential crop in China, and the nation produces more rice than any other country in the world. In China, the crucial rice-growing areas are located along the Yangtze River. Due to the complexities of rice cultivation, Chinese rice farmers are slower to mechanize their farms than other farmers. In some areas, Chinese rice farmers use buffalo-drawn plows to prepare their lands for cultivation. The most significant challenge facing rice growing in China is the poor transport system in some of the rice growing areas.


The Chinese livestock industry is one of the country's best-developed industries. Chinese livestock farmers keep different types of animals such as buffaloes, pigs, cattle, and different types of poultry. The Chinese government has urged livestock farmers to invest in dairy production to meet the country's demand for dairy products. Chinese livestock farmers also keep a variety of unique animal species such as turtles to satisfy the local demand for exotic meat. Chinese turtle farmers sell roughly 300 million turtles each year.


Due to China's vast size, the nation has been blessed with a diverse range of fishing grounds ranging from oceans to rivers and lakes. The quantity of fish the Chinese people get from their wild fisheries is higher than the quantity of fish any other nation obtains from wild fisheries. The Chinese people have also been practicing aquaculture for a long period with historical evidence indicating that the practice dates back to the second millennium BC. China has a more vibrant aquaculture sector than any other nation in the world. In 2004, the Chinese government estimated that the country had exported roughly $6.6 billion worth of fish products.


China has vast quantities of valuable minerals such as gold, aluminum, and lead among others. According to the Chinese government in 2013, the mining sector contributed roughly 4.3% of the country's gross domestic product. The Chinese labor department estimated that in 2014, the mining industry employed roughly 6 million people who constituted roughly 3.2% of the country's labor force. The Chinese government estimates that in 2014, the country exported roughly $2.34 trillion worth of minerals which was approximately 1.7% of the country's total exports. Companies owned by the Chinese government exploit most of the country’s minerals.


One of China's most important minerals is coal which is primarily used for the generation of electricity. China produces and uses up more coal than any other nation on earth. At the start of 2015, the Chinese government estimated that the nation had 114 tons of coal with anthracite coal accounting for more than half of China's coal reserves. The major challenge facing the Chinese coal sector is the fluctuation in global coal prices.


Chinese gold production was higher than the gold production in any other nation as estimates from the Chinese government indicated that in 2016, the nation produced roughly 46 tons of gold. Industry experts estimate that China's gold reserves are roughly 7% of the world's entire gold reserves. Most of the gold extraction in China take place in the country's eastern region in provinces such as Liaoning, Shandong, and Fujian. China's gold reserves have attracted investment from foreign nations such as Canada and Australia. Apart from mining for gold within the country's border, the Chinese government has encouraged Chinese firms to mine for gold in other countries. As a result of the policy by 2015, Chinese corporations owned the mining rights to more than 120 African mines.

Oil and Natural Gas

China also has significant deposits of oil and natural gas most of which are located in the country's northeastern region. Most of the petroleum products that China produces are consumed locally with small quantities sold to other nations.

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