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As a large agricultural country, China faces large-scale burning of crop stubble in the field during the harvesting, post-harvesting and pre-harvesting periods. In recent decades, crop residue burning (CRB) played a noticeable role in the sudden and extreme haze episodes as results of reducing atmospheric visibility and harming human health. On a regional or global scale, satellite remote sensing technology can offer a more reliable fire data source that helps fill a significant in situ data gap. In this study, The MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) active fire products MOD14/MYD14 from 2013 to 2017 were employed. Land cover data was used to extract crop residue burning spots by selecting active fires over farmlands in the daytime. With the aim to reveal the differences of crop residue burning regions, nine agricultural regions were grouped in this paper. Our results show that CRB spots mainly distribute in the Northeast plain, Sanjiang plain, Huang-Huai-Hai plain, Middle-Lower Yangtze plain, Hetao plain and Sichuan basin. As the largest contributor, averaged annual CRB spot number in Northeast China reaches 47.55% of that in China. During the period from 2013 to 2017, the variation of the annual CRB spot number shows a “up-down-up” trend. The annual CRB spot number of China increases from 2013 to 2014, and dramatically drops from 2014 to 2016, and then slightly increases from 2016 to 2017. Compared with the figure of 2014, the total number of CRB spot over China in 2016 decreases 34.48%. In the recent five years, the major regions over China with serious CRB is relatively fixed because of rare changes of both the agricultural areas and agricultural activities. By calculating the difference in the annual CRB spot number between 2017 and 2013, it is indicated that the area of regions with negative difference is about 2 times of that with positive difference. And the regions with negative difference mainly locate in Henan and Anhui provinces, while the regions with negative difference focus in northeast China. Our study show that, in recent years, official policies play a heavy role to inhibit crop residue burning. Henan province in the Huang-Huai-Hai region, Anhui and Hubei provinces in the Mid-low Reaches of Yangtze River region are three typical provinces whose CRB numbers decrease significantly influenced by prohibitions of straw burning. Especially for Henan province, the CRB was not improved before 2015 due to the limitation of policy implementation, however, the monthly CRB numbers in June and October of 2016 decline 86.66% and 98.93% of those in June and October of 2015, respectively, as a result of the combination of CRB prohibition, accountability mechanism, economic punishment, and increasing use of crop residue. Heilongjiang province shows negative feedback in the prohibitions of straw burning. Although the monthly CRB number in October 2016 decreases 40.9% with comparison of that in October 2015, the monthly CRB number rebounds remarkably in April 2017 because of the large yield of crop residue and the lack of crop residue use. Therefore, it is necessary to further strengthen prohibitions of straw burning in major regions and in both post-harvesting and pre-harvesting periods. Furthermore, in order to enhance the comprehensive utilization rate of crop residue, a sustainable strategy on crop residue recycling should be expanded in most regions of China. Moreover, more attention should be paid to return disposable crop residue into farmland as a replacement for fertilizer. The policy of “banning” and “using” is a long-term effective measure to control crop residue burning.