Fast economic development in China has resulted in a significant increase in energy demand. Coal accounts for 70% of China's primary energy consumption and its combustion has caused many environmental and health problems. Energy security and environmental protection requirements are the main drivers for renewable energy development in China. Small farmland and food security make bioenergy derived from corn or sugarcane unacceptable to China: the focus should be on generating bioenergy from ligno-cellulosic feedstock sources. As China cannot afford biomass energy production from its croplands, marginal lands may play an important role in biomass energy production. Although on a small scale, marginal land has already been used for various purposes. It is estimated that some 45 million hm2 of marginal land could be brought into high potential biomass energy production. For the success of such an initiative, it will likely be necessary to develop multipurpose plants. A case study, carried out on marginal land in Ningnan County, Sichuan Province with per capita cropland of 0.07 ha, indicated that some 380 000 tons of dry biomass could be produced each year from annual pruning of mulberry trees. This study supports the feasibility of producing large quantities of biomass from marginal land sources.