The negative impact of economic development on vegetation health in China was assessed using gross domestic product (GDP) and the Global Inventory Modelling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data. Five levels of vegetation changes were established based on the NDVI data and their distribution was established, which shows that almost a quarter of the total area of China suffered a severe to moderate decrease in vegetation cover from 1992 to 2002. The relationship between GDP growth and vegetation degradation was established through regression to show that the reasonable range for China's economic growth is between 5.9% and 11.5%. China's economic activities will have little impact on its vegetation health if GDP growth is lower than 5.9%. It is shown that the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta in China, the two regions with GDP growth of more than 12%, have undergone the most severe degradation in vegetation health.