China’s vast sea area has more than 5,000 islands, with a total area of 80,000 square kilometers. Over 90 percent of these are less than one square kilometer in area.
About 60 percent of China’s islands are in the East China Sea, 30 percent in the South China Sea, and 10 percent in the Bohai and Huanghai seas. Most of them are situated off the coasts of Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong provinces.
China’s islands can be divided into three types, based on how they were formed: (1) rock islands---more than 90 percent of the country’s islands including Taiwan and Hainan formed directly from the action of the geological structure of the mainland and continental shelf; (2) alluvial islands---mainly at the mouths of the Yangtze River, Zhujiang, and some other rivers- formed out of the mud and silt carried down by these rivers as they flow into the sea; (3) coral islands, such as the Dongsha, Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha island groups, built up from the deposits of tropical marine organisms.
Taiwan Island, southeast of the mainland, is bounded by the Pacific in the east and faces Fujian Province in the west across the Taiwan Straits. Three hundred and the 94 kilometers long from north to south and 144 kilometers wide from west to east, it covers an area of 35,788 square kilometers of which one-third is plain and the rest mountainous. The largest inland in China, Taiwan Island belongs to the country’s Taiwan Province proper.
Hainan Island, known for its tropical crops in its year-round tropical climate, is on the continental shelf in the north of the South China Sea facing the Leizhou Peninsula of Guangdong Province in the north across the Qiongzhou Straits. With an area of 34,380 square kilometers, it is the second largest island in China. Its topography is low on four sides and high in the center from which radiate the island’s rivers. 20 percent of the island is mountainous, 15 percent hilly land 65 percent is plain and tableland. Two major ports, Haikou and Yulin, are along its 1,440-kilometer coastline.
Chongming Island, the third largest island in China, lies at the mouth of the Yangtze River bounded by the East China Sea in the east. With an area of 1,083 square kilometers, it is also the largest alluvial island, having been formed by the mud and silt deposits of the Yangtze River. With a maze of rivers and streams and a fertile soil, the island has well-developed agriculture, animal husbandry and fishery. Chongming County comes under the administration of Shanghai Municipality.
The Miaodao Islands, the entrance to the Bohai Sea, are scattered over the Bohai Straits, at the confluence of the Bohai and Huanghai seas, consisting of Changshan, Daqin, Huangcheng and some 30 other islands. Administered under the jurisdiction of Changdao County, Shandong province, the island group is a major fishery base in the northern sea area.
The Zhoushan Archipelago, China’s leading fishing ground and the largest of China’s offshore island groups with more than 600 islands, is on the East China Sea outside Hangzhou Bay, to the northeast of Zhejiang Province. Zhoushan Island, the largest among them, has an area of 524 square kilometers to make it the fourth largest in China. Other major islands include Liuheng, Taohua, Zhujiajian, Jintang and Daishan. The Shengsi Islands are one of the island groups in the Zhoushan Archipelago. The zhoushan Archipelago has four counties, Dinghai, Putuo, Daishan and Shengsi, all under the administration of Zhejiang Province. Located where warm and cold currents meet, the sea surrounding the Zhoushan Archipelago is shallow and has a plentiful supply of food for the fish brought by the Yangtze River and Qiangtang river. Large and small yellow croakers, cuttlefish and hairtails are its best-known marine products. With its scenic peaks and temples, Putuo Island, or Putuo Hill, is one of the four sacred hills of Chinese Buddhism.
The Dawanshan Islands, 150 in all, are situated at the Zhujiang estuary in Guangdong province. Originally extensions of mountains on the mainland, as the mountains sank they became submerged in seawater and finally detached from the mainland.
The Penghu Islands, southeast of the Taiwan Straits, are composed of 64 volcanic islands, the largest among them Penghu, Yuweng and Baisha. The Penghu Islands are under the jurisdiction of Taiwan Province.
The South China Sea Islands, under the administration of Guangdong Province, include more than 200 coral islands, reefs, shoals and sand bars. Besides Huangyan Island, four island groups are named after their geographical locations in the South China Sea: Dongsha (East Islands), Xisha (West Islands), Zhongsha (Central Islands) and Nansha (South Islands).
The Dongsha islands, the nearest island group to the mainland, are 140 nautical miles from Shantou on the mainland in the north.
The Xisha Islands, on the edge of the continental shelf southeast of Hainan Island and 170 kilometers from the southern tip of that island, consist of over 30 reefs and are divided into the Xuangde and Yongle island groups. Yongxing Island, the largest among them, covers and area of 2.65 square kilometers and is the seat of the People’s Government of the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansh island groups.
The Zhongsha Islands, situated to the southeast of the Xisha, are composed of more than 20 reefs and shoals.
The Nansha Islands contain more than 100 islets, reefs, shoals and sand bars studding the vast southern sea area south of the Zhongsha Islands. Of the four island groups, the Nansha is the one that is southernmost, is most scattered and has the largest number of reefs. Major islands are Taiping, Zhongye and Nanwei. Zengmu Reef is the southernmost part of Chinese territory.
Frequented by fishermen by fishermen from Guangdong Province, the South China Sea islands have always been a part of China. The temperature here is high all year round and the rainfall plentiful. The entire area is rich in tropical resources, fish and other valuable marine products. There are also large deposits of guano, a good fertilizer.