Hinterland supplies resources for the economic activities of central cities, so the range and the quality of hinterland are very important to city's development. However, the existing hinterland delimitation models are not enough to explain and analyze the complexities of urban system in China for their lack of maneuverability and their limit to only one indicator. In this paper, complex components for calculating the urban synthetical scale value are selected, with consideration to the following five specific aspects, i.e., population, economy, commerce, traffic and government capability, and the value is calculated by means of principal component analysis. Then, China is divided into 338828 grids, the scale of which is 5 km ×5 km, with the support of ArcGIS software. The field-strength of each grid influenced by cities at prefecture level or above in China can also be calculated. Meanwhile, each grid is allocated to exclusive city in the light of "maximal field-strength choosing" principle, and then, the hinterland area of 283 cities at prefecture level or above in 2004 in China can be delimitated automatically. Finally, the coherence and difference between hinterland area and administrative division are studied by overlaying these areas with province boundaries in order to provide scientific basis for adjustment of administrative division and delimitation of urban economic region. Results show that (1) the difference of urban hinterland cities was obvious among the cities at prefecture level or above in China, and the concrete facts show that hinterland area of the western cities is larger than that of the eastern ones, in which the maximum hinterland area is 5488 times of the minimum one. (2) The relationships between urban hinterlands are identified as four types: coexistence, inclusion, semi-inclusion and competition. (3) The coincidence degree between urban hinterland areas and their administrative division is lower. On the basis of measurement and analysis for urban hinterland, a three-level zoning project of urban economic regions of the whole country is put forward. According to the project, the first-level division includes North Region, Middle-and-east Region and South Region; the second-level division includes 11 regions, which are North China, Northeast China, East China, Shandong, Fujian, Central China, South China, Southwest China, Tibet, Northwest China and Xinjiang; and the third-level division is comprised of 38 districts, which are named after cities at provincial capital level or above. The measurement results also indicate that application of GIS spatial analysis methods to delimitate urban hinterland is convenient, precise and feasible, which can be an alternative approach of urban economic region division and urban system planning.