This term is rarely used by geographers, but usually it refers to the bigger Asian part of Russia, also known as Siberia. Sometimes the northern parts of other Asian nations, such as Kazakhstan are also included in Northern Asia.
There is no absolute consensus in the usage of this term. Usually, Central Asia includes:
This can also be called by the Western term Middle East, which is commonly used by Europeans and Americans. 'Middle East' (to some interpretations) is often used to also refer to some countries in North Africa. Southwest Asia can be further divided into:
Most numbers are from the UNDP from 2002, some numbers exclude certain countries for lack of information.
In terms of gross domestic product, Asia's largest economy is Japan, and the smallest is East Timor, (although as of 2005 there is no reliable data for Iraq or North Korea). Japan is the world's second largest economy, and North Korea is one of the poorest. As of 2005, China's economy has been growing rapidly.
Asia is by a considerable margin the largest in the world, and is rich in natural resources. The vast expanse of former Soviet Union, particularly that of Russia contains a huge varity of metals, such as gold, iron, lead, titanium, uranium, and zinc.
Oil is perhaps Asia's most important natural resource. The middle eastern nations of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait are rich in oil reserves and have benefited from oil price escalation in 2004 and 2005.
Agriculture constitutes a high portion of land usage. The main agricultural products include rice, grain, and chicken. One of Asia's major cash crops is opium, which is sold in Europe and North America.
Forestry is extensive throughout Asia, with many of the items of furniture sold in the Western World made out of Asian timber. Fishing is a major source of food in Asia, particularly in the coastal and riverine regions.
Manufacturing in Asia has traditionally been strongest in the Southeast region, particularly in China, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore. The industry varies from manufacturing cheap low-value goods such as toys to high-tech added-value goods such as computers, CD players, games consoles and cars. Major Asian manufacturing companies include Sony, Samsung, LG, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Several of the world's largest corporate conglomerates, such as the Mitsui Group, Matsushita, Sumitomo and many others are based in Japan. These business powerhouses contain sometimes hundreds of subsidiaries (many of which are enormous corporations in their own right) and are actively involved in both research and manufacturing in virtually all corporate sectors. Many Western companies from Europe and North America have significant operations in Asia to take avantage of its abundant supply of cheap labour.
One of the major employers in manufacturing in Asia is the textile industry. Much of the world's supply of clothing and footwear now originates in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Financial and other services
Asia has three main financial centers. They are in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Call centers are becoming major employers in India, due to the availablity of many well-educated English speakers. The rise of the business process outsourcing industry has seen the rise of India and China as the other financial centers. Experts believe the current center of financial activity is moving toward "Chindia" -- a name used for jointly referring to China and India -- with Shanghai and Mumbai (Bombay) becoming major financial hubs in their own right.
The history of Asia can be seen as the distinct histories of several peripheral coastal regions, East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe .
The coastal periphery was the first to be home to civilization, with each of the three regions developing early civilizations around fertile river valleys. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and the Yangtze shared many similarities and likely exchanged technologies and ideas such as mathematics and the wheel. Other notions such as that of writing likely developed individually in each area. Cities, states and empires developed in these lowlands.
The steppe region had long been inhabited by mounted nomads, and from the central steppes they could reach all areas of Asia. The earliest known such central expansion out of the steppe is that of the Indo-Europeans, who spread their languages into the Middle East, India, and in the Tocharians to the borders of China. The northern part of Asia, covering much of Siberia, was inaccessible to the steppe nomads, due to the dense forests and the tundra. These areas were very sparsely populated.
The centre and periphery were kept separate by mountains and desserts. The Caucuses, Himalaya, Karakum Desert and Gobi Desert formed barriers that the steppe horsemen could only cross with difficulty. While technologically and culturally, the urban city dwellers were more advanced, they could do little militarily to defend against the mounted hordes of the steppe. However, the lowlands did not have enough open grasslands to support a large horsebound force. Thus the nomads who conquered states in China, India, and the Middle East were soon forced to adapt to the local societies.
The following table lists countries and dependencies by population density in inhabitants and km2.
Unlike the figures in the country articles, the figures in this table are based on areas including inland water bodies (lakes, reservoirs, rivers) and may therefore be lower here.
The whole of Egypt, Russia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey are referred to in the table, although they are only partly in Asia.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip are not listed separately, but combined as Palestinian territories.