Country Listing

China Table of Contents



China stretches some 5,000 kilometers across the East Asian landmass in an erratically changing configuration of broad plains, expansive deserts, and lofty mountain ranges, including vast areas of inhospitable terrain. The eastern half of the country, its seacoast fringed with offshore islands, is a region of fertile lowlands, foothills and mountains, desert, steppes, and subtropical areas. The western half of China is a region of sunken basins, rolling plateaus, and towering massifs, including a portion of the highest tableland on earth. The vastness of the country and the barrenness of the western hinterland have important implications for defense strategy (see Doctrine, Strategy, and Tactics , ch. 14). In spite of many good harbors along the approximately 18,000- kilometer coastline, the nation has traditionally oriented itself not toward the sea but inland, developing as an imperial power whose center lay in the middle and lower reaches of the Huang He (Yellow River) on the northern plains.

Figures for the size of China differ slightly depending on where one draws a number of ill-defined boundaries. The official Chinese figure is 9.6 million square kilometers, making the country substantially smaller than the Soviet Union, slightly smaller than Canada, and somewhat larger than the United States. China's contour is reasonably comparable to that of the United States and lies largely at the same latitudes.

Data as of July 1987