Central Asia is the western extension of the Chinese-Korean platform; it is divided by tectonic activity zones into relatively stable massifs – Tarim, Djungarian, Alashan and Ordos; in the north this group of massifs is bounded by the Mongolian-Kazakhstan belt and in the south – by Kunlun belt of Paleozoic folded structures. In the north of Tibetan Highlands, within Changtan, there are manifestations of Mesozoic folding. At the end of the Mesozoic the territory of Central Asia mostly represented denudation plains uplifted and dissected as a result of subsequent Cenozoic movements. The modern relief is notable for the complex combination of rubbly and sandy plains (with the areas of hummocks), mountain chains and massifs, the highest of which are characterized by Alpine relief.
The minerals of Central Asia are still underexplored. There are large oilfields (Kelamayi, Urho, Tushandzy, Yumen) and coalfields (Turfan, Hami) in the north-west of China, and coalfields (Darkhan, Tsogt-Tsetsyi), brown coal (Choibalsan) and iron ore (Sharyn-Gol, Tamryn-Gol etc.) in Mongolia. Central Asia is rich in rare and non-ferrous metals, halite and other minerals.
Central Asia is the natural region including desert and semi-desert plains, highlands and plateaus. It is bounded by the southern part of the Great Khingan and Taikhanshan chain in the east, and by the longitudinal tectonic depression of the upper Indus and Brahmaputra (Tsangpo) in the south. In the west and in the north the boundaries of central Asia are formed by mountain chains of eastern Kazakhstan, Altay, Western and Eastern Sayan, roughly coinciding with the state border between the CIS, on one side, and China and Mongolia, on the other side. The area of Central Asia, according to various estimates, is 5 to 6 million sq. km. China and Mongolia are mostly located in the territory of Central Asia. The population of Central Asia is composed of the Mongolian ethnic groups (such as Khalkha), the Chinese, Uigurs, Tibetans etc.
According to the UNESCO definition, the region also includes Mongolia, Western China, Punjab, northern India and northern Pakistan, north-eastern Iran, Afghanistan, Asian parts of Russia to the south of the taiga zone and the five former Soviet republics of the Middle Asia.
Central Asia can be also defined based on the ethnic structure of the population. According to this approach, the definition also covers the Turkic regions of the Southern Siberia, five former Soviet republic of the Middle Asia, the north of Afghanistan and a part of China.
In terms of climate and physical geography “Central Asia” also covers both Central and Southern Kazakhstan.
The region was previously called “Middle Asia and Kazakhstan”, however at the summit of the Central Asian states in 1992 Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, proposed to refuse this definition on favor of the “Central Asia” concept.