Geography of the Countries Bordering China

Asia Map
Greg Rodgers

As of 2018, China was the world's third-largest country based on area and the world's largest based on population. It is a developing nation with a fast-growing economy that is controlled politically by communist leadership.

China is bordered by 14 different countries that range from small nations such as Bhutan to very large ones, like Russia and India. The following list of the border countries is ordered based on land area. Population (based on July 2017 estimates) and capital cities have also been included for reference. All statistical information has been obtained from the CIA World Factbook. More information about China can be found in "The Geography and Modern History of China."

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Saint Basil's Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow, Russia
Saint Basil's Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow, Russia. Suphanat Wongsanuphat/Getty Images
  • Land area: 6,601,668 square miles (17,098,242 sq km)
  • Population: 142,257,519
  • Capital: Moscow

On the Russian side of the border, there's forest; on the Chinese side, there are plantations and agriculture. In one spot on the border, people from China can see both Russia and North Korea.

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Pleasure boats and ancient Hindu temples on River Ganges
World famous and historical bathing ghats of Varanasi (Benares), in India. NomadicImagery/Getty Images
  • Land area: 1,269,219 square miles (3,287,263 sq km)
  • Population: 1,281,935,911
  • Capital: New Delhi

Between India and China lie the Himalayas. A 2,485-mile (4,000-km) border area between India, China, and Bhutan, called the Line of Actual Control, is in dispute between the countries and seeing military buildup and construction of new roads. 

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The Bayterek Tower is a Symbol of Kazakhstan The central boulevard, with flower beds leading up to Bayterek Tower
Bayterek Tower, Nurzhol Bulvar, AstanaThe Bayterek Tower is a Symbol of Kazakhstan The central boulevard, with flower beds leading up to Bayterek Tower,. Anton Petrus/Getty Images
  • Land area: 1,052,090 square miles (2,724,900 sq km)
  • Population: 18,556,698
  • Capital: Astana

Khorgos, a new land transport hub on the border of Kazakhstan and China, is surrounded by mountains and plains. By 2020, the goal is to have it be the world's largest "dry port" for shipping and receiving. New railways and roads are under construction. 

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Mongolian yurts against a stormy sky
Mongolian yurts. Anton Petrus/Getty Images
  • Land area: 603,908 square miles (1,564,116 sq km)
  • Population: 3,068,243
  • Capital: Ulaanbaatar

The Mongolian border with China features a desert landscape, courtesy of the Gobi, and Erlian is a fossil hotspot, albeit a very remote one.

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Cherry blossom at night Hunza Valley North Pakistan
Cherry blossom in Hunza Valley, North Pakistan. iGoal.Land.Of.Dreams/Getty Images
  • Land area: 307,374 square miles (796,095 sq km)
  • Population: 204,924,861
  • Capital: Islamabad

The border crossing between Pakistan and China is among the highest in the world. The Khunjerab Pass is at 15,092 feet (4,600 m) above sea level.

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Burma (Myanmar)

Hot air balloon over plain of Bagan in misty morning, Mandalay, Myanmar
Hot air balloons in Mandalay, Myanmar. Thatree Thitivongvaroon/Getty Images
  • Land area: 261,228 square miles (676,578 sq km)
  • Population: 55,123,814
  • Capital: Rangoon (Yangon)

Relations are tense along the mountainous border between Burma (Myanmar) and China, as it's a common spot for illegal trade of wildlife and charcoal.

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Band-e Amir National Park
Band-e Amir National Park is Afghanistan's first national park, located in the Bamiyan Province. HADI ZAHER/Getty Images
  • Land area: 251,827 square miles (652,230 sq km)
  • Population: 34,124,811
  • Capital: Kabul

Another high mountainous pass is the Wakhjir Pass, between Afghanistan and China, at more than 15,748 feet (4,800 m) above sea level.

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Farmer in rice terrace Vietnam come back to home
Rice terraces in Mu Cang Chai, Vietnam. Peerapas Mahamongkolsawas/Getty Images
  • Land area: 127,881 square miles (331,210 sq km)
  • Population: 96,160,163
  • Capital: Hanoi

The site of a bloody war with China in 1979, the China-Vietnam border saw a dramatic increase in tourism in 2017 because of a change in the visa policy. The countries are separated by rivers and mountains.

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Mekong river
Mekong river, Laos. Sanchai Loongroong/Getty Images
  • Land area: 91,429 square miles (236,800 sq km)
  • Population: 7,126,706
  • Capital: Vientiane

Construction was underway in 2017 on a rail line from China through Laos for ease of moving goods. It took 16 years to get moving and will cost nearly half of what was Laos' 2016 gross domestic product ($6 billion, $13.7 GDP). The area used to be dense rainforest.

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Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Issyk Kul Province (Ysyk-K_l), Juuku valley, the shepherd Gengibek Makanbietov leads his 24 horses in the mountains pasture
Juuku valley, Kyrgyzstan. Emilie CHAIX/Getty Images
  • Land area: 77,201 square miles (199,951 sq km)
  • Population: 5,789,122
  • Capital: Bishkek

Crossing between China and Kyrgyzstan on the Irkeshtam Pass, you'll find rust and sand-colored mountains and the beautiful Alay Valley.

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Himalaya Landscape, Gokyo, Sagarmatha National
Solukhumbu district, Eastern Nepal. Feng Wei Photography/Getty Images
  • Land area: 56,827 square miles (147,181 sq km)
  • Population: 29,384,297
  • Capital: Kathmandu

After damage from the April 2016 earthquake in Nepal, i\It took two years to rebuild the Himalayan road from Lhasa, Tibet, to Kathmandu, Nepal, and to reopen the China-Nepal border crossing to international visitors. 

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On the road to Kargush pass, Tajikistan
Jean-Philippe Tournut/Getty Images
  • Land area: 55,637 square miles (144,100 sq km)
  • Population: 8,468,555
  • Capital: Dushanbe

Tajikistan and China officially ended a century-old border dispute in 2011, when Tajikistan ceded some Pamir mountain land. There, in 2017, China completed the Lowari tunnel in the Wakhan Corridor for all-weather access between the four countries of Tajikistan, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. 

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North Korea

Cityscape of Pyongyang, North Korea
Pyongyang, North Korea. Philipp Mikula / EyeEm/Getty Images
  • Land area: 46,540 square miles (120,538 sq km)
  • Population: 25,248,140
  • Capital: Pyongyang

In December 2017, it was leaked that China was planning to build refugee camps along its North Korea border, just in case they were needed. The two countries are divided by two rivers (the Yalu and Tumen) and a volcano, Mount Paektu.

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View overlooking the town of Thimphu, Bhutan and the Tashichho Dzong
Thimphu, Bhutan. Andrew Stranovsky Photography/Getty Images
  • Land area: 14,824 square miles (38,394 sq km)
  • Population: 758,288
  • Capital: Thimpu

The border of China, India, and Bhutan has a disputed region on the Doklam plateau. India supports Bhutan's border claim to the area.