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Power On The Pacific Rim

May 21, 1991

"The center of gravity of the world will shift to the Pacific in the next century."

--Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew

The Pacific.

It covers fully one-third of the Earth's surface and laps the shores of about 50 countries with nearly half the globe's population.

Once merely big, the Pacific now represents the kind of dynamism that influences world events, that shapes an era. Western history began with a Mediterranean Era. Then came the Atlantic Era. If the Pacific Era has not begun already, many say, it will by the turn of the century.

Combined U.S. transpacific trade has exceeded U.S. trade with Europe each year since 1975 and is now nearly half again as large. On an average day:

* More than 5,000 imported Japanese cars arrive at U.S. ports;

* Almost 2 million pounds of American cotton are unloaded in South Korea;

* Nearly 100 container ships ply the Pacific between Hong Kong and Los Angeles;

* About 210,000 telephone calls are exchanged between the United States and Japan, 15 times the number a decade ago.

If the Pacific used to conjure images of exotic leisure, it now represents explosive growth and change. In this special issue, World Report explores that change and the way it is redefining power on the Pacific Rim.

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