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Asia is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Bering Strait and the Pacific Ocean, to the south by the Indian Ocean, to the southwest by the Red and Mediterranean Seas and to the west by Europe.

The continental landmass stretches from the southern tip of Malacca to Cape Chelyuskin, in Siberia. Its westernmost point is Cape Baba (Turkey) and the easternmost is Cape Dezhnev (Siberia). The central part of its relief is the Pamir Mountain range, known as «the roof of the world», as several of its peaks exceed 6,100 meters above sea level. These mountains run along the frontiers of India, China, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Hindu Kush mountains rise west of Pamir, the Caucasus Mountains between the Caspian and Black Seas, and the North Anatolian Mountains along the Black Sea in Turkey. The Himalayas lie to the southeast. With an average height between 3,660 and 4,570 meters above sea level, the Tibetan Plateau is located between the Himalayas and the Karakoram and Kunlun mountain ranges.  

Soil and climate

Soil types in Asia vary greatly. The Siberian region is covered by acid forest soils, which are typical of the tundra and taiga. Permafrost (soil which is permanently frozen) is also frequently found.

These soils often mix with grassland, steppe and desert soils from southern China as far as the Black Sea on one side and Southeast Asia on the other. The most productive soils for agriculture are the alluvial soils located in eastern and southern Asia, between the great rivers of Indus and Ganges. In the lower regions the tropical soils are generally not very fertile.

Similarly, the Asian climate is very diverse. The northern part of Asia is dominated by the movement of continental polar air masses from western Siberia to the northern Pacific Ocean. Winters are long and summers are short and cold.
The Tibetan Plateau has a similar climate.

The inland regions have desert climates, with very cold winters and warm summers. Most of Asia’s outer regions have dry, cold winters and warm, humid summers, with heavy rainfall mainly in the summer months.

Unequal economies

Economies in Asia are unequal due to geographical, political and social differences among the countries. Some countries are developed (Japan and China) while others are very poor (Laos and Vietnam).

Japan is currently a global economic powerhouse. China’s economy was the world’s fastest growing in 2005, due to incentives to foreign investment, the privatisation of companies and industrialisation. Notably, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is located in southern Asia. It is a regional organisation of ten members and its main objectives are encouraging economic growth, peace and regional stability.

Forestry is important in most of the countries in southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. It is also important in Japan, where there are large areas of tree plantations, mainly conifers (pine and cypress trees among others).

Mining is a fundamental components of the exports of many Asian countries: manganese in India, tin in Thailand and Indonesia (both countries are the largest producers in the world) and chrome in the Philippines. However, the most heavily exploited resource is petroleum. Southeast Asia, especially the Middle East, have the largest petroleum deposits in the world. The manufacturing sector is poorly developed except in China and Japan. There are, however, other countries with some industrial activity, such as India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.

The countries

Asia consists of 45 independent countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bhutan, Cambodia, East Timor, China, the Philippines, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

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