By David Shankman
What we know as the Yangtze River the Chinese call the Chang Jiang, or Long River. As China’s longest river, the Chang Jiang plays a major role in shaping the country’s physical, cultural, and economic character. Its headwaters are in the rugged Tibetan and Qinghai Plateaus in western China, and flow eastward for 6,300 kilometers before reaching the sea near Shanghai (Fig. 1). Its watershed covers 18,000,000 square kilometers—about twenty percent of the total land area of China. Transportation along the Chang Jiang is a key factor in the development of large industrial cities along its banks. They include Chongqing, the largest city along the upper section of the river, and Nanjing and Shanghai along the lower section. Other regional economic centers along the Chang Jiang and its larger tributaries are Wuhan, Changsha, and Nanchang—all provincial capitals.