Central Asia is an extremely large region of diverse geography, including high passes and mountains ( Tian Shan ), vast deserts ( Kyzyl-kum , Taklamakan ), and particularly grassy steppes . The vast steppe areas of Central Asia are considered together with the steppes of Eastern Europe as a homogeneous geographical region known as the Eurasian steppe .
Much of Central Asia’s land is too dry or too rugged for cultivation. The Gobi Desert extends from the foot of the Pamir , 77°E, to the Great Khingan (Da Hinggan) mountains, 116°-118°E.
Central Asia has the following extreme geographical boundaries:
- The world’s northernmost desert ( sand dunes ) at Buurug Deliin Els, Mongolia , 50° 18′ N.
- The Northern Hemisphere’s southernmost permafrost , in Erdenetsogt sum, Mongolia , 46° 17′ N.
- The world’s shortest distance between non-frozen desert and permafrost : 770 km (480 mi).
- Eurasian pole of inaccessibility .
The majority of people earn a living by herding cattle. Centers of industrial activity in the cities of the region.
Major rivers in the region include the Amu Darya , the Syr Darya , the Irtysh , the Hari River and the Murghab River . Major bodies of water include the Aral Sea and Lake Balkhash , both of which are part of the huge West Central Asia Indore Basin that also includes the Caspian Sea .
Both bodies of water have shrunk dramatically in recent decades due to diversion of water from rivers that feed them for irrigation and industrial purposes. Water is a very valuable resource in the arid Central Asian region and can lead to fairly major international conflicts.
Since gaining independence in the early 1990s, the Central Asian republics have been gradually transitioning from a state-controlled economy to a market economy. The ultimate goal is to emulate the Asian tigers by becoming the Central Asian snow leopards the local equivalent. However, reform has been deliberately gradual and selective, with governments striving to reduce the social cost and improve living standards. The five countries are implementing structural reforms to improve competitiveness. Kazakhstan is the only CIS country to be included in 2020  and 2019 IWB Global Competitiveness Rankings. In particular, they modernized the industrial sector and promoted the development of service industries through business-friendly fiscal policies and other measures, to reduce the share of agriculture in GDP. Between 2005 and 2013, the share of agriculture declined throughout Tajikistan, increasing while industry declined. The fastest growth in industry was observed in Turkmenistan, while the services sector registered the greatest progress in the other four countries. 
The public policies of Central Asian governments focus on protecting the political and economic spheres from external shocks. This includes maintaining the trade balance, reducing public debt, and accumulating national reserves.
However, they cannot completely insulate themselves from negative external forces, such as the persistent weak recovery of global industrial production and international trade since 2008. Despite this, they have relatively survived the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. Growth faltered only briefly in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and not at all in Uzbekistan, where the economy grew by more than 7% annually on average between 2008 and 2013.
Turkmenistan achieved extraordinarily high growth of 14.7% in 2011.
Kyrgyzstan performed more irregular but this phenomenon was evident before 2008. 
The republics that had the best results benefited from the commodity boom during the 2000s. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have abundant reserves of oil and natural gas, and Uzbekistan’s own reserves make it somewhat self-sufficient. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan all have gold reserves and Kazakhstan has the largest uranium reserves in the world.
The fluctuation of global demand for cotton, aluminum and other metals (except for gold) in recent years has taken its toll on Tajikistan, because aluminum and raw cotton are its most important exports – the Tajik Aluminum Company is the country’s main industrial asset In January 2014, the Minister of Agriculture announced the government’s intention to reduce The area of land under cotton to make room for other crops. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are major exporters of cotton, ranking fifth and ninth respectively worldwide by volume in 2014.
Although exports and imports have grown significantly over the past decade, the countries of the Central Asian republics are still vulnerable to economic shocks, due to their dependence on exports of raw materials, a restricted circle of trading partners and negligible manufacturing capacity. Kyrgyzstan has the additional disadvantage that it is considered resource-poor, despite its abundance of water. Most of the electricity is generated by hydroelectric power. 
The Kyrgyz economy was shaken by a series of shocks between 2010 and 2012. In April 2010, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown by a popular uprising, with former Foreign Minister Rosa Otunbayeva asserting the interim presidency until the election of Almazbek Atambayev in November 2011. Food prices have been up for two years in a row, and in 2012 production at the main Kumtor gold mine fell by 60% after the site was disturbed by geological movements. According to the World Bank, 33.7% of the population was living in extreme poverty [ clarification needed ] in 2010 and 36.8% a year later. 
Despite the high rates of economic growth in recent years, GDP per capita in Central Asia was higher than the average in developing countries only in Kazakhstan in 2013 (PPP$23206) and Turkmenistan (PPP$14201) . It fell to purchasing power parity to $5,167 for Uzbekistan, which includes 45% of the region’s population, and was also lower for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. 
Kazakhstan leads the Central Asian region in terms of foreign direct investment. The Kazakh economy accounts for more than 70% of all investments made in Central Asia. 
Regarding the economic influence of major powers, China is seen as one of the major economic players in Central Asia, especially after Beijing launched its grand development strategy known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013
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