The Right Reverend David Lunan, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said the fact that the country had enforced the controversial rules limiting couples to having one child meant it had limited its damage to the planet.
The single child policy was introduced in 1979 to try to stop the population from growing too rapidly.
Human rights campaigners and religious groups oppose the policy amid concerns about abortion and female infanticide.
Lunan, who is concerned with environmental issues, spoke out during an interview with Cathy MacDonald for her BBC Alba series Cuide Ri Cathy. He said: "
Interestingly enough, the country that is doing the most for the planet is China. People talk about the smoke and pollution from China, but they have limited their population in a way that no other country has or will, and that in itself will have an effect on not using up the Earth's resources."
Last night, his comments were criticised by John Deighan, parliamentary officer for the Catholic Church in Scotland, who said: "China's one-child policy is recognised by most people as reprehensible.
"Its policy of abortion and giving licences to women before they are allowed to have children is incompatible with human dignity and the respect that women and families are naturally entitled to.
"There's a massive imbalance in the population and a social breakdown where children do not have the opportunity to interact with siblings or extended family.
"We do not sacrifice human lives for the environment."
Lunan, a father of four, took over as Moderator in May this year.
The interview will be broadcast at 10pm tomorrow