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Introduction

 

Located in East Asia, on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has a land area of about 9.6 million sq km, and is the third-largest country in the world, next only to Russia and Canada.

From north to south, the territory of China measures some 5,500 km, stretching from the center of the Heilongjiang River north of the town of Mohe (latitude 53° 30' N) to the Zengmu Reef at the southernmost tip of the Nansha Islands (latitude 4° N). When north China is still covered with snow, people in south China are busy with spring plowing. From west to east, the nation extends about 5,200 km from the Pamirs (longitude 73° 40'E) to the confluence of the Heilongjiang and Wusuli rivers (longitude 135° 05' E), with a time difference of over four hours. When the Pamirs are cloaked in night, the morning sun is shining brightly over east China. China has land borders 22,800 km long, with 15 contiguous countries: Korea to the east; the People's Republic of Mongolia to the north; Russia to the northeast; Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan and Tajikistan to the northwest; Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan to the west and southwest; and Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar to the south. Across the seas to the east and southeast are the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Chinese mainland is flanked to the east and south by the Bohai, Yellow, East China and South China seas, with a total maritime area of 4.73 million sq km. The Bohai Sea is China's continental sea, while the Yellow, East China and South China seas are marginal seas of the Pacific Ocean. A total of 5,400 islands dot China's vast territorial waters. The largest of these, with an area of about 36,000 sq km, is Taiwan, followed by Hainan with an area of 34,000 sq km. Diaoyu and Chiwei islands, located to the northeast of Taiwan Island, are China's easternmost islands. The many islands, islets, reefs and shoals on the South China Sea, known collectively as the South China Sea Islands, are subdivided into the Dongsha, Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha island groups.

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