Data crucial for policymakers to make plan on urbanization
A comprehensive survey of China's geographical conditions is the first to detail the country's immensely diverse natural terrain and could lead to a wide range of new land-use policies that will inform and help drive the country's economic development.
The Chinese Academy of Surveying and Mapping (CASM) published the blue book, based on studies by experts who provided crucial data and reference materials for policymaking on land resources utilization.
The Blue Book of National Geographic Conditions of China 2017 includes assessments of natural resources, ecology, regional and urban economic development.
"The results of the blue book directly link ecological construction to people's livelihood. It will better blend in the country's overall economic and social development," said Wang Jiayao, an expert in cartography and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Twenty-one institutions jointly conducted the survey, including the Renmin University of China, People's Liberation Army Information Engineering University, and provincial administrations of mapping, surveying and geo-information.
More than 50,000 people participated in the survey which was started in 2013 and took more than three years to complete, Xinhua reported.
The survey studied the amount of land that is used for farming and covered by forests and grasslands and water.
The survey found that the country's eastern region has more farmland than western regions, while western areas have noticeably more forest and grassland than the more populous east.
Western regions are the greenest in the country, with Qinghai, Tibet and Sichuan -- the three provincial-level administrations - having the highest rate of green coverage. The regions with the least forest coverage are provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong and the city of Shanghai, all of which are in the east.
Eastern and coastal regions like Shandong and Hainan have the largest areas dedicated to farming, while Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang have the least.
The survey finds that China's forest and grassland coverage is 6.51 mu (0.43 hectares) per capita, while there is 1.74 mu of farmland per person.
Chinese urban areas occupy only 1.2 percent of the total territory, the survey finds.
"Urbanization is not necessarily in opposition to protecting the ecological environment," Niu Fengrui, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies, told the Global Times.
Urban land is more cost-efficient than rural areas, so urbanization can make the best use of land and improve environmental protection of the whole country, Niu said.
According to the data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, 58.52 percent of the Chinese population lived in urban areas in 2017, 1.17 percentage points higher than 2016. The United Nations' World Urbanization Prospects predicts that by 2050, the urbanization rate among developed countries will reach 86 percent.
"China is pushing its urbanization, and during this process, policymakers from the central government to local governments all need comprehensive knowledge of China's land resources to guide their decision-making," Niu told the Global Times.