Trends and driving forces of China’s virtual land consumption and trade

Xu Tian, Martin Bruckner, Yong Deng, Raimund Bleischwitz

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Land resources are important for China’s rapid economic development, especially for food and construction. China’s land resources are under tremendous pressures, and therefore land use is increasingly displaced to other parts of the world. This study analyses the evolution and driving forces of China’s land consumption from 1995 to 2015. The main results show that China’s land footprint increased from 8.8% of the global land resources under human use in 1995 to 15.7% in 2015. China’s domestic land resources are mainly used for serving domestic consumption. Moreover, China needs to import virtual land from foreign countries to satisfy 30.8% of its land demand. Among the three land use types of cropland, grassland and forests, grassland had the largest fraction in China’s land footprint from 1995 to 2000, while forest has become the largest one since 2000. China’s virtual land trade experienced a sharp increase in net imports from 9.4E + 04 km2 in 1995 to 3.4E + 06 km2 in 2015. Observing China’s virtual land network by a cluster analysis, this study concludes that China keeps tight relationships with Australia, Japan, Brazil and Korea for its cropland consumption, and Canada, USA, Mexico, Australia, Korea and Japan are relevant for its grassland consumption. In addition, decomposition analysis results show that affluence is the major driving factor for China’s land consumption, while changes in land use intensity could mitigate some of the related effects. Lastly, policy recommendations are proposed so that China can move toward sustainable land management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104194
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 107004 Human ecology
  • 201128 Sustainable building
  • 401905 Renewable resources
  • 405 not use (legacy)
  • 405004 Sustainable agriculture
  • 502042 Environmental economics
  • 502022 Sustainable economics
  • 105904 Environmental research

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