According to the United Nations, Asia has 49 countries. However, depending upon the organization or government making the list, Asia can have as few as 45 or as many as 53 countries. The continent is also home to a varying number of "administrative regions" and dependent territories.
This ambiguity can be attributed to multiple factors. In the case of Asia, the biggest complication is the presence of several territories that are considered independent countries by some organizations and governments, but not by others.
For example, the island nation of Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state, but the Chinese government claims it as part of China, along with territories Hong Kong and Macao (and the United Nations seems to agree).
Similarly, Israel and Palestine have both been recognized as sovereign states by many members of the United Nations, but haven't yet been granted official nationhood. As a result, they appear on some lists of countries in Asia, but not on others.
Additional confusion is created by transcontinental countries, which cross over continental lines. For instance, Egypt is mostly in Africa, but its northeast corner extends into Asia. Turkey lies almost entirely in Asia, but its biggest city, Istanbul, is located in the tiny portion of Turkey that extends into Europe.
The aforementioned Russia presents an even larger quandary: 75% of Russian land lies in Asia, but 78% of Russian people live in the European portion. This gives Russia a legitimate place on both continents, depending upon the variable being measured.
Finally, the dividing lines between continents are sometimes ambiguous, especially at sea. The island country of Cyprus, for example, is considered by the United Nations to be part of Asia, but it is also a member of the European Union. Similarly, many islands of Oceania could arguably be considered part of Asia, Australia/Australasia, or even South America. Even land boundaries, such as the dividing line between Europe and Asia, have changed throughout history.
For the purposes of this list, we will consider Egypt part of Africa, Turkey part of Asia, and Cyprus part of Europe. Russia will be listed in Asia as well as Europe. Israel and Palestine will be listed independently. Macao and Hong Kong will be considered part of China, and Taiwan will be listed independently.
Geographically speaking, Asia is the world's largest continent by a wide margin. Russia is the largest country in Asia, despite the fact that a full 25% of Russia's 17,098,250 square kilometers of territory is located in Europe (where it is also the largest country). China comes in second in Asia, with a total area of approximately 9,600,010 km².
Asia is also the world's most populous continent. This is due primarily to the presence of the world's two most populous countries, China and India, which have 1.44 and 1.38 billion people respectively.
In addition to China and India, five other Asian countries rank among the top 15 most populous countries in the world: Indonesia (#4, 276.4 million), Pakistan (#5, 220.9 million), Japan (#11, 126 million—but in decline largely due to low fertility rates and an aging population), the Philippines (#13, 111 million), and Vietnam (#15, 98.2 million). Russia (145.9 million) ranks 9th, but it is considered European for population purposes because only 22% of Russians live in Asia.
Asia also includes some of the world's smallest nations. The tiny country of Brunei, on the island of Borneo, has a population of just 437,000. The Maldives, a tropical island country in the Indian Ocean, has 540,500 people, while the landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan, located in the Eastern Himalayas and bordered by China, has just 771,600 inhabitants.
For the full list of countries in Asia, see the list further down this page. Alternatively, you could move on to our list of the largest countries in Asia.