The vast land expanses of China include plateaus, plains, basins, foothills, and mountains. Rugged plateaus, foothills, and mountains occupy nearly two-thirds of the land. The higher elevation in the West and lower in the East resembles a four-step ladder.
The highest step of the typical ‘ladder topography’ is formed by the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, at the average altitude of over 4,000 meters. There are Kunlun Mountains, Tanggula Mountains, Gangdise-Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains, and Karakoram Mountains. The Himalayas in the south rim comprise the highest and greatest mountain chain in the world. The highest peak in the world, Everest, at 8844.43 meters high is known as ‘the Roof of the World’.
On the second step are large basins and plateaus, most of which are at 1,000 – 2,000 meters altitude. The Great Khingan, Taihang, Wu and Xuefeng mountains divide this step and the next lower one. Plateaus including Inner Mongolian, Loess, Yungui Plateaus, and basins such as Tarim, Junggar, and Sichuan Basins are situated here. The Turpan Depression in Xinjiang is the lowest land in China (-155 meter altitude).
The third step, abundant in broad plains, is dotted with the foothills and lower mountains, with altitudes of over 500 meters. The Northeast, the North China, and the Middle-Lower Yangtze Plains, border each other from north to south. These well-cultivated and fertile lands produce abundant crops.
The Neritic region of Chinese Mainland is to the east, which is also the fourth step of the ladder. The depth of water here is no more than 200 m in general. There are 5,400 islands in the Chinese sea, and Taiwan Island is the largest, with an area of 36,000 square kilometers. Hainan Island is the second largest, with an area of 34,000 square kilometers. Diaoyu Island and Raleigh Rock in the northeast sea of Taiwan Island are the easternmost islands of China.
Islands, reefs and beaches on the South China Sea are called the South China Sea Islands collectively, which are the southernmost islands of China. They are called as Dongsha Islands, Xisha Islands, Zhongsha Islands, and Nansha Islands according to different locations. The continental shelf in the east and south of the coastline contains abundant marine resources.