How will these resources help you?

The Geography National Curriculum aims to ‘develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places’ and ‘extend locational knowledge’ using maps to focus on Africa, Russia, Asia (including China and India), and the Middle East. Students must develop this knowledge of China at KS3, particularly given its increasing development as an economic powerhouse and often a source of instability in the region. They need to appreciate the diversity of the physical landscape of this vast country and the impacts that the physical landscape has on development and conflict. Students can move to the higher Assessment Objectives as they analyse the landscape and its impact on geopolitics. These resources will support teachers and students in filling knowledge gaps on China’s physical geography, which cannot be separated from its human geography, development and geopolitics.

Taiwan and Tibet

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics

by Tim Marshall, published by Elliott & Thompson, (2016), 9781783962433

Marshall’s book explains how the location and physical geography of countries affects their chances of success, economically and militarily. His dedicated chapter on China explains how the lay of the land shapes its destiny. This is particularly relevant following tensions over Taiwan. Marshall weaves in the physical geography that would make any invasion plans perilous, in that the Taiwan Strait is about 130km wide at its narrowest point. China’s interest in the Tibetan plateau stems largely from a deep-seated fear that India would otherwise seek to control it, leaving China’s lower-lying regions open to invasion. Relief in the region, therefore, dictates the balance of power. This book is highly recommended reading for teachers, A-level students and higher-ability students from younger age groups.

A comprehensive account of China’s geography

The Geography of Contemporary China

by Jing’ai Wang, Shunlin Liang and Peijun Shi, published by Springer Cham, (2022), 9783031041587

This highly authoritative resource on China’s physical landscape provides everything a teacher or student needs when covering the topic. The book is fantastically illustrated and covers the physical geography, history and economic and political systems of the world’s most populous country. The primary focus is on geographical issues in China’s contemporary development: agriculture, population, urbanization, resource, energy and environment, which all shape its physical landscape. China’s rapid economic growth has brought about major challenges. For AO1 and KS3, many chapters focus on physical features, such as Chapter Two on China’s Territory, Chapter Three on Topology and Landforms and Chapter Five on Hydrology and Water Resources. This book caters for all ages, with undergraduate and A-level students benefiting from the more detailed analysis of how the landscapes shape China’s geopolitics, and for KS3, where students must define the physical characteristics of significant places. 

East Asia

World Regional Geography (Chapter 9: East and Southeast Asia)

by Caitlin Finlayson, published by PressBooks, (2016, updated 2022)

A concise, yet authoritative overview of the physical landscape of the wider region. Section 9.1 summarises the topic very accessibly for students, covering relief, rivers (including the impact of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze) and climate and is supported by political and physical maps. From the text, students could annotate their own blank maps of China. For students who want to explore further and develop critical thinking, the resource also examines levels of development, natural hazards and future geopolitical conflicts over issues such as Taiwan’s sovereignty claims.  


Wild China: Natural Wonders of the World's Most Enigmatic Land

by Phil Chapman and the BBC Wild China Team, published by BBC Books, (2008), 9781846072338

A visually stimulating book that will inspire students to want to learn about the diverse landscapes of China. As the book’s description states, ‘it is an invaluable guide to the wildlife and landscapes of the country. It also ‘delves into the history of the world’s most ancient cultures and describes through memorable stories the relationship that the Chinese have with nature’. The book is organized geographically, and the impact of China’s population on the nation’s landscapes is also explored. It ends with a gazetteer and travel tips.

Further materials

Walking Mongolia to Hong Kong by Leon McCarron, published by Sidetracked Magazine, (2013) Read this article
Interactive Map of China, published by, (2022) Access this resource
How China is Reforesting the Gobi Desert into Forest - The Great Green Wall by The Primest – The Money Channel, published by YouTube, (2022) Watch this video
David Newell is Head of Geography at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex. He has held the GA’s Secondary Geography Quality Mark since 2015, and has worked as a Specialist Leader in Education, advising schools on improving their Geography provision.

Text © David Newell, 2022.