Runoff is a key component of the water cycle over land, with direct impact on regional ecosystems and water resources. This study investigates historical runoff variability and change over China in 1951â€“2008 using the Community Land Model and in situ observations of atmospheric forcing fields. Model simulations are first evaluated against in situ observations of streamflow for four major rivers, as well as soil moisture and water table depths, before further analysis is conducted. Then, quantile regression is used to analyze runoff variability and its relation to precipitation and temperature. The spatial pattern of monthly climatological runoff over China is characterized by maxima in the humid south and a gradual decrease toward the arid northwest. Runoff increases in the humid south, slightly decreases in the transition zone, and shows nonsignificant trends in the arid northwest. The footprint of decadal variability can be seen from 1951 to 2008. The annual precipitation advances the spatiotemporal variability of runoff despite locally distinct runoffâ€“precipitation responses. The runoff-temperature relationship shows complex spatiotemporal characteristics that depend on the feedback from precipitation.