Rapid urban expansion, population growth, and limited cultivated land in China necessitate rethinking the path to sustainable management of cultivated land. Understanding the long-term dynamic relationship between water-land resource endowment and cultivated land use contributes to effective management and use of cultivated land. However, few studies have systematically documented this relationship, especially for future trends. Accordingly, we modified water-land resource matching (WLRM) using a more refined grid-scale and assessed cultivated land use efficiency (CLUE), then deployed spatial panel regression models to quantify historical changes. We subsequently simulated future trends under three Shared Socioeconomic Pathways scenarios. The results showed that the relationship assumed an N-shaped curve in nation, while the curve followed a down-up-down pattern in economically less developed regions, largely because of structural transformations of production factors. Under three development scenarios, the stage-specific characteristics of production factors were pronounced, and the dynamic relationship varied across regions.

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