Four major geological units (Li, 1990)
- High plains of the eastern and central Inner Mongolia Plateau, the Ordos Sandland Plateau, the Shaanxi-Gansu Loess Plateau, the western Alashan Plateau, eastern Xinjiang, and the Hashun Gobi.
- Mountains: the Daxinganling, Yinshan, and Helanshan of Inner Mongolia; the Liupanshan of Ningxia and Gansu; the Qilian Mt on the northern edge of Qinghai; and the Altai, Tianshan, and Kunlun mountains in Xinjiang.
- Desert basins—the Junggar, Turpan, and Tarim basins of Xinjiang; the Qaidam Basin of Qinghai; and the Hexi Corridor of Gansu.
- The Qinghai-Tibet-Plateau, with the western boundary where Himalaya, Karakoram, Kunlun and Pamir Mountains meet; the eastern boundary formed by the highlands in Qinghai, western Gansu and Sichuan, northwestern Yunnan locate and the Kunlun; the Arjin and Qilian Mountains form northern boundary and the main chains of the Himalaya demarcate the southern boundary.
Li, Bo 1990. The Steppe of China (Zhongguo de caoyuan). Beijing: Science Press. (in Chinese)