"I was flying from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and had the good fortune to get a window seat on an unusually clear day. We skirted the coast of Siberia for several hours, then came inland. The sparse villages were wrecks, with little visible order in house, field, and dumping area. Abandoned or disused vehicles were parked at odd angles on the edges of towns, and planted fields were sometimes lush, sometimes poky. The sentiment was one of limitless space, upon which it didn't much matter what you did, because there was always a troubling infinitude of it. It is a sensibility I frequently see in America's Intermountain West.
Suddenly, we flew over regimented order: Clear demarcations of houses. Prim vegetable patches. Retail areas. The same geography was suddenly extremely valuable, and had to be managed closely.
We had entered Chinese airspace. In Siberia, the mindset was of endless reaches and few people - it almost didn't matter what one did with the land. In China, the mindset was of overpopulation, mouths to feed - it always mattered what you did with the land.
Granted, this is not a Chinese sensibility that extends to use of industrial space and pollution, but it was as stark a difference between two countries on the same geography as I've seen."