"The center of gravity of the world will shift to the Pacific in the next century."
--Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
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: