Single research methodologies do not suffice for a complete analysis of land-use change. Instead, a sequence of methodologies is needed that link up and integrate disciplinary components over a range of spatial and temporal scales. In this paper, a modelling methodology is presented aiming at the analysis of the spatial and temporal dynamics of land use at the regional level. The methodology explores the dynamic functioning of land-use systems, which is essential to bridge the gap between studies identifying problems associated with land-use change and studies aiming at understanding and manipulating land-use change processes. An illustration of the methodology is given for China where we have simulated a scenario of near-future (1991–2010) changes in land-use patterns. The methodology is adapted to include the nested simulation of different crop types in addition to the simulation of land-cover change. Results are presented for changes in the spatial distribution of cultivated land and special emphasis is given to shifts in the distribution of different crops. In the northern part of the country a decrease in the proportion wheat within the cropping system is expected whereas in the southern part the proportion of rice is decreasing. Corn and vegetable crops are expected to become more important within the cropping system in these parts of the country.