China includes a wide variety of topographies: broad plains, expansive deserts, and lofty mountain ranges, including vast areas of inhospitable terrain, as it stretches 5,000 kilometers across East Asia. China's eastern half is filled with fertile lowlands, foothills and mountains, desert, steppes, and subtropical areas. The western half of China reveals instead 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. 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 Yellow River on the northern plains.
For more details on China's geographical characteristics, refer to the following topics: