The Yangtze is flanked with metallurgical, power, chemical, auto, building materials and machinery industrial belts and high-tech development zones. It is playing an increasingly crucial role in the river valley's economic growth and has become a vital link for international shipping to the inland provinces. The river is a major transportation artery for China, connecting the interior with the coast.

Handbook for the Guidance of Shipmasters on the Ichang-Chungking Section of the Yangtze River

Tens of millions of people live in the floodplain of the Yangtze valley, an area that naturally floods every summer and is habitable only because it is protected by river dikes. The floods large enough to overflow the dikes have caused great distress to those who live and farm there. Floods of note include those of 1931, 1954, and 1998.

From June to September 1954, the Yangtze River Floods were a series of catastrophic floodings that occurred mostly in Hubei Province. Due to unusually high volume of precipitation as well as an extraordinarily long rainy season in the middle stretch of the Yangtze River late in the spring of 1954, the river started to rise above its usual level in around late June. Despite efforts to open three important flood gates to alleviate the rising water by diverting it, the flood level continued to rise until it hit the historic high of 44.67 m in Jingzhou, Hubei and 29.73 m in Wuhan. The number of dead from this flood was estimated at around 33,000, including those who died of plague in the aftermath of the disaster.

Satellite map showing the lake created by the Three Gorges Dam. Compare Nov. 7, 2006 (above) with April 17, 1987 (below).

A number of power line crossings have also been built across the river.

Diagram showing dams planned for the upper reaches of the Yangtze River
A shipyard on the banks of the Yangtze building commercial river freight boats

The Yangtze River has over 700 tributaries. The major tributaries (listed from upstream to downstream) with the locations of where they join the Yangtze are: