Pacific Century

For the telecommunications and multimedia company, see Pacific Century Cyberworks.

The Pacific Century (and the associated term Asia-Pacific Century) is a term that has been used to describe the 21st century through analogy with the term American Century. The implicit assumption underlying the usage of the term is that the 21st century will be dominated, especially economically, by the states in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular China, Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan, the ASEAN members (particularly Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore), Australia, Russia, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This idea can be compared to the historical Eurocentric/Atlantic viewpoint, which has dominated for the past two centuries.

The term Asian Century is a more popularized term, shifting greater emphasis towards Asia, especially on the potential superpowers of China and India. Cities in those countries, such as Tokyo, Mumbai, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Delhi and Bangkok are increasingly gaining power as financial centres, displacing cities in Europe. However, critics of this associated term believe it incorrectly describes the 21st century and overstates the importance of the states around the Indian Ocean. Up until 2011, this was proving to be true, as India had shown very promising growth, despite nagging infrastructure concerns. But with the continual unrest in Palestine and associated ultra critical Suez Canal, the Euro crisis, along with India's and Brazil's growth concerns, and Russia's new look East policy, the Pacific Century is in fact a more accurate term than the Asian Century. Note the United States, Canada, and Mexico in particular are dual powers, both Pacific and Atlantic, however the West Coast of North America stands to benefit the most from the Pacific Century vis-à-vis the East Coast of North America.

A 10-hour documentary entitled The Pacific Century was aired on PBS in 1992, which covered the history of modern Asia and the West, as well as the future of the region .

In a November 2011 article for Foreign Policy, the term was recast as America's Pacific Century by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to succinctly describe the leading US foreign-policy goal of the 21st century. Acknowledging discussion of the rising threat to American power in the region from rapidly developing Pacific nations, most obviously China, Clinton said: "One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment—diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise—in the Asia-Pacific region."[1] President Barack Obama also toured various countries that month to bolster security alliances and work on a new trade bloc called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which China is excluded.[2][3][4] The US was ASEAN's largest trading partner in 2004; by 2012 China was the biggest trading partner of ASEAN by far, as well as the biggest of Japan, Korea, India and Australia.[5]

Clinton's remarks were translated into official policy at the start of 2012, as the Obama administration outlined a new China-centric military strategy.[6] The preceding year, Clinton had already "grabbed Beijing's lapels" by declaring the South China Sea as a vital American interest.[7] The policy shift was denounced by Chinese state media, which declared that the Americans should not "recklessly practice militarism", nor engage in "war mongering".[6] Unease from SE Asian countries at the militaristic rhetoric from the US led to a trip by Clinton in July 2012, which aimed to extend economic ties to South East Asian countries that are becoming increasingly bound by trade with China, being spun as an adjustment to focusing more on economic issues. One indication of the comprehensiveness of the new American effort was Clinton's visit to Laos, the first by a US Secretary of State since John Foster Dulles in 1955.[5] The end of summer 2013 saw US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel forcefully lobbying the Philippines, a nation of major strategic importance, to permit a rotating American troop force to return to the country, an arrangement that would provide a fillip to the US military presence in the region.[8] The rotating troop discussion was part of a broader framework agreement being negotiated by Washington and Manila that, if agreed,[9][10][11] would permit American forces to operate out of Filipino military bases.[12] The US response to the destruction visited on the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013 evidenced the rapidly expanding military alliance between the two countries.[13][14]


  1. Clinton, Hillary (November 2011). "America's Pacific Century". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2 May 2012.

    The American pivot has been dutifully trailed by their British partner; see di Mattia & Macdonald 2014.

  2. Pilling, David (8 November 2011). "Trans-Pacific Partnership: Far-reaching agreement could form powerful new trade bloc". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  3. Patrick, Stewart M. (25 November 2011). "Obama's Plan for America's Pacific Century". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  4. Pilling, David (1 April 2015). "Round two in America's battle for Asian influence". Retrieved 1 April 2015. The TPP excludes China. That is quite an omission. It is also precisely the point.
  5. 1 2 Perlez, Jane (7 July 2012). "Clinton Makes Effort to Rechannel the Rivalry With China". Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  6. 1 2 Barboza, David (6 January 2012). "Chinese News Agency Warns Against U.S. Moves". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  7. Pilling, David (16 November 2011). "How America should adjust to the Pacific century". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  8. Barnes, Julian E.; Larano, Cris (30 August 2013). "Pentagon Urges Philippines to Allow U.S. Troop Presence". Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  9. Orendain, Simone (1 September 2013). "Philippines Setting Limits for Increased US Forces Presence". Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  10. Calunsod, Ronron (9 October 2013). "Eco groups oppose increased US military presence". Kyodo News. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  11. Depasupil, William B. (6 November 2013). "Talks on increased US presence bog down". Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  12. Gomez, Jim (11 November 2013). "Philippines: Increase in US troops not permanent". Associated Press. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  13. Mogato, Manuel; Belford, Aubrey (18 November 2013). "Dramatic U.S. humanitarian effort in Philippines aids Asia 'pivot'". Reuters. Retrieved 19 November 2013. The Philippines, a former American colony, was host to U.S. bases for nearly a century, but a surge of domestic opposition forced them to close in 1992.
  14. LaFranchi, Howard (13 November 2013). "US military footprint on Philippines could grow after typhoon Haiyan". Retrieved 19 November 2013.

Further reading

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