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Top 10 Natural Resources of China 

China boasts the world’s most extensive natural resource wealth, valued at a staggering 23 trillion dollars. With 90% comprising rare earth metals, it stands as a mining powerhouse globally. Beyond minerals, China plays a significant role in timber production. The nation also contributes to the global supply chain of antimony, coal, gold, graphite, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, tin, tungsten, vanadium, and zinc.

A List of 10 China’s Natural Resources

  1. Coal
  2. Hydroelectric Power
  3. Forests 
  4. Oil
  5. Natural Gas
  6. Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind)
  7. Minerals 
  8. Rare Earth Metals
  9. Water resources
  10. Mining

1. Coal 

China is abundantly rich in mineral resources, with coal taking the lead. Notably, the country boasts extensive reserves of coal, iron ore, and various industrial minerals. While coal deposits are widespread, the majority is concentrated in the northern regions, particularly in Shanxi. Other key coal-bearing provinces include Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Hebei, and Shandong. Beyond the north, significant coal reserves are found in Sichuan, and noteworthy deposits are present in Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, and Guizhou.

The country’s coal reserves primarily consist of high-quality bituminous coal, complemented by substantial deposits of lignite. Though present in locations like Liaoning, Guizhou, and Henan, it holds less overall significance. To ensure a more balanced distribution of coal resources, authorities have encouraged the development of numerous small, locally managed mines across the nation. While this initiative has increased coal production, it has also raised concerns about safety measures in these unregulated mines, leading to thousands of fatalities annually.

In 2020, China’s proven coal reserves totaled approximately 143.2 billion metric tons. Anthracite and bituminous reserves surpassed sub-bituminous and lignite, with this trend intensifying since 2016. As of 2020, anthracite and bituminous reserves accounted for about 94% of China’s total coal reserves. China’s substantial coal consumption positions it as one of the world’s largest consumers, primarily for electricity generation.

Coal remains the cornerstone of China’s energy consumption, constituting 70% in 2005 and 55% in 2021. In the year 2022, China experienced a significant upswing in coal production, recording a notable increase of nearly 10.5 percent compared to the previous year, with the total reaching 92.22.

As the largest global producer and consumer of coal, China’s coal demand is poised to surge alongside its growing economy. Despite coal’s declining share in overall energy consumption, absolute coal consumption is expected to rise. This reliance on coal has contributed to China becoming the world’s leading emitter of sulfur dioxide and greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide.

2. Hydroelectric Power

China’s abundant potential for hydroelectric power generation is rooted in its extensive river network and mountainous topography. The majority of this hydroelectric capacity is strategically concentrated in the southwest region, where the energy demand is escalating rapidly, and coal supplies are limited. Conversely, the northeast exhibits relatively smaller hydroelectric potential, yet it holds historical significance as the site of the first hydroelectric stations established during Japan’s occupation of Manchuria.

A testament to China’s engineering prowess is the colossal Three Gorges Dam, a monumental project that spanned over 13 years and cost 24 billion dollars. Completed in 2006, this dam on the Yangtze River stands as a symbol of China’s commitment to sustainable energy solutions. In 2018 alone, the Three Gorges Dam contributed over 100 terawatt-hours (TWh) of energy, marking a significant milestone in the nation’s pursuit of renewable and efficient power sources. This remarkable achievement underscores China’s dedication to meeting the surging energy demands of its burgeoning economy while prioritizing environmentally sustainable solutions in the ever-evolving global energy landscape.

3. Forests

The forest is also one of the major natural resources of China. Hunan’s remarkable journey from a forest province to a green powerhouse is characterized by transformative environmental initiatives. With a strategic focus on coordinating the management of diverse natural elements, the province has achieved an impressive 59.96% forest coverage rate by the end of 2020, hosting 618 million cubic meters of growing stock. Notably, the forestry authority halted commercial logging in natural forests, implementing a three-year action plan that successfully reduced logging by 15 million cubic meters.

Key accomplishments include an impressive 59.96% forest coverage rate, the cessation of commercial logging, and substantial efforts in forest plantation, conservation, and ecological restoration. The forestry industry’s robust output value of 510.4 billion CNY underscores Hunan’s commitment to sustainable practices. Noteworthy initiatives, such as the establishment of the “one lake and four rivers” ecological protection area and the launch of 30 provincial demonstration ecological corridors, demonstrate the province’s steadfast dedication to environmental preservation and sustainable development.

4. Oil

China, a key player in the global oil market, heavily relies on oil as a crucial natural resource, powering its industries, transportation, and overall economic development. Noteworthy oil shale deposits contribute to the nation’s resource wealth, especially in Fushun, Liaoning, and Guangdong. As of 2020, estimates suggested China’s oil reserves were approximately 3.5 billion metric tons. 

To strategically manage these reserves for energy security, the nation addresses the escalating energy demands driven by factors such as a growing population and political conditions.

China’s mainland oil reserves are primarily situated in regions like the Northeast and Henan provinces. High-quality light oil discoveries diversify China’s oil assets, with locations such as the Pearl River estuary, Qaidam Basin, and Tarim Basin playing significant roles. Although most of the oil production is consumed domestically, China also exports some crude oil and oil products. Exploration efforts extend to various seas, including the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea, Gulf of Tonkin, and the Bohai Sea.

In 2013, China faced a challenge as its economic growth outpaced domestic oil capacity, exacerbated by floods damaging oil fields mid-year. To compensate for reduced supply, China emerged as the world’s largest oil importer, surpassing the US in September 2013. Notably, as of at least 2024, China maintains some of the world’s lowest gasoline prices for consumers, further solidifying its intricate role in the global energy landscape.

Also Read: China in the Solar Industry

5. Natural Gas

The scope of China’s natural gas reserves remains uncertain, given limited exploration. Sichuan dominates, contributing nearly half of known reserves and production. 

In a 2011 Energy Economics article by economists Mete Feridun (University of Greenwich) and Abdul Jalil (Wuhan University), China’s financial development was explored about environmental impact. Contrary to expectations, the study suggested that financial progress in China has not led to increased environmental pollution. On the contrary, it proposed that financial development has resulted in reduced environmental pollution. Carbon emissions in China are primarily influenced by income, energy consumption, and trade openness. Their findings align with the concept of an Environmental Kuznets Curve in China, indicating a potential decline in environmental degradation as economic development continues.

In the year 2021, China recorded a substantial increase in natural gas production, reaching 207.58 billion cubic meters. This marked a noteworthy upswing of over 15 billion cubic meters compared to the previous year and stood as the highest production figure during the period under consideration.

6. Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind)

Wind and solar renewable energy in China enhance energy security, reduce pollution, and contribute to global climate goals. China boasts the world’s largest wind resources, with 75% offshore. Surpassing its 2020 target, it reached 276 GW onshore wind capacity. While encouraging foreign investment, China’s wind energy adoption hasn’t matched its capacity growth. In 2008, it was the fourth-largest wind power producer globally. By 2009, total installed capacity hit 26 GW, seen as pivotal for economic growth. In 2010, China became the top wind turbine maker, exceeding its 2010 target by reaching 25.1 GW in 2009. Notably, in 2020, China deployed 71.7 GW of wind energy, outpacing the rest of the world combined.

Looking forward to 2022, China plans to install an additional 56 GW of wind turbines, with 50 GW onshore and 6 GW offshore. This emphasizes China’s continued leadership in renewable energy on the global stage.

China leads the global solar photovoltaics (PV) industry, producing 63% of the world’s solar panels and holding the title of the largest manufacturer since June 2015. Key initiatives, including the 2009 Golden Sun incentive scheme, have spurred significant advancements. China’s commitment to renewable energy, voiced at a 2009 UN climate summit, led to collaborations like LDK’s 500 MW solar project.

China’s solar manufacturing prowess is evident, with its top six companies valued at over 15 billion dollars. In 2007, it produced 820 MW of solar PV, ranking second globally. The China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute projects over 100 GW of solar panel installations in 2022.

China’s solar exports soared by 64% to 52 billion dollars in 2022, with Europe claiming 56% of the share. Importantly, as of at least 2023, solar power in China has become more cost-effective than coal-fired power.

7. Minerals

Another important natural resource of China that plays an important role in increasing the economy of the country. China stands as a reservoir of 173 different mineral resources, each witnessing an expanding reserve base. Notably, natural gas took the lead in 2022, boasting an impressive 6569 billion cubic meters. The initiation of the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2020 has steered the mining industry toward a trajectory of swift development, underlining a commitment to eco-friendly practices.

A significant achievement in December 2021 saw China producing 72.1 million metric tons of pig iron. Despite some fluctuations, the production volume of pig iron demonstrated relative stability, ranging between 61.7 and 78.2 million metric tons monthly. Concurrently, crude steel production in China hit approximately 67 million metric tons during the same period, witnessing a reduction of over 10 million metric tons from the preceding year, marking its lowest point since 2017.

China’s copper mine production reached an estimated 1.7 million metric tons, indicating a minor decrease from the peak witnessed in the prior year. As of 2022, the nation possesses significant copper reserves, with the total remaining proved and technically recoverable reserves standing at a substantial 40.77 million metric tons of metal. For silver, the cumulative proved and probable reserves amounted to around 70,340 metric tons of metal in the same year. This paints a comprehensive picture of China’s dynamic and resource-rich mining landscape.

8. Rare Earth Metals

China boasts extensive reserves of rare earth metals and iron ore, spread across provinces like Hainan, Gansu, Guizhou, southern Sichuan, and Guangdong. The primary reservoirs, supporting local iron and steel enterprises, are situated north of the Yangtze River. Ferroalloys and manganese are well-supplied in China, with substantial reserves, except for nickel, chromium, and cobalt. Tungsten reserves are notably ample, while copper resources are of moderate quantity, concentrated in a few deposits featuring high-quality ore. Noteworthy discoveries have been reported in Ningxia.

Considerable reserves of lead, zinc, and bauxite contribute to China’s resource wealth. The nation holds the world’s largest antimony reserves and tin resources are abundant. China stands as the fifth-largest global gold producer, endowed with rich gold deposits. In the early 21st century, China emerged as a crucial producer and exporter of rare metals essential for high-tech industries, solidifying its prominent role in the global resource arena.

9. Water Resources

China’s water resources are diverse and essential for sustaining its massive population and robust industrial activities. The country is endowed with numerous rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, forming a comprehensive network that facilitates water supply, irrigation, and hydropower generation. The Yangtze River, the longest in Asia and third-longest in the world plays a pivotal role in China’s water system, supporting agriculture, transportation, and energy production.

China faces significant challenges in managing its water resources, including uneven distribution, pollution, and scarcity in certain regions. Rapid urbanization and industrialization contribute to increased water demand, exacerbating these issues. To address these concerns, the Chinese government has implemented various water conservation and pollution control measures, emphasizing sustainable water management practices.

The South-North Water Transfer Project, one of the largest infrastructure initiatives globally, aims to alleviate water shortages in northern China by diverting water from the water-rich south. China is investing in advanced technologies and wastewater treatment facilities to improve water quality and ensure a more sustainable water future.

10. Species of wild animals

China’s rich biodiversity is reflected in its diverse array of wild animal species. The country is home to a wide range of wildlife, including iconic species like the giant panda, South China tiger, red-crowned crane, and Asian elephant. Conservation efforts are crucial to preserving these species and maintaining ecological balance.

China has established numerous national parks, nature reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries to protect its unique flora and fauna. Conservation initiatives focus on habitat preservation, breeding programs, and anti-poaching measures. The government has also implemented stricter regulations against illegal wildlife trade to combat the threats posed by poaching and habitat destruction.

Despite these efforts, several species face habitat loss, climate change, and human-wildlife conflict. Ongoing research and collaboration with international conservation organizations are essential to ensuring the survival and thriving of China’s diverse wildlife. By safeguarding these species, China contributes not only to global biodiversity but also to the ecological health of its landscapes.


China’s natural resource abundance, from coal to rare earth metals, powers its economic ascent. Harnessing hydroelectric power, sustainable forestry, and embracing renewable energy showcase China’s commitment to environmental responsibility. As guardians of water resources and protectors of diverse wildlife, China strides towards a harmonious balance between prosperity and ecological preservation.


Why is China So Rich In Natural Resources?

China’s wealth in natural resources is attributed to its diverse and vast landscape. The country encompasses expansive coal deposits, abundant rivers for hydroelectric power, extensive forests, rich oil and natural gas reserves, and significant mineral resources. This resource wealth has played a crucial role in China’s economic growth and global influence.

What Is China’s Demand for Resources?

China’s demand for resources is driven by its rapidly growing population, industrialization, and urbanization. The country has a voracious appetite for energy resources like coal, oil, and natural gas to power its industries and meet the needs of its population.

What are China’s 5 Important Natural Resources?

China’s five important natural resources include coal, hydroelectric power, forests, oil, and natural gas. These resources form the backbone of China’s energy production, industrial development, and economic growth, contributing significantly to its status as a global economic powerhouse.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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