The Pacific Century

The century alluded to in Frank Gibney’s title is not the twentieth but rather the twenty-first. Ringing changes on Henry Luce’s “American Century,” Gibney foresees a world-leading role for the nations of the Pacific Basin. His ultimate goal in this book is to communicate that forward-looking vision to American readers. To make that vision meaningful, however, he must trace the interconnections between the United States and Asia over the past 150 years, with a heavy emphasis on the twentieth century.

Gibney is a superbly qualified guide. His own experience of Asia, like that of many Americans of his generation, began during World War II, when he served in naval intelligence, including a stint with U.S. Occupation forces in Japan. After the war he returned to Asia as a correspondent for TIME magazine, based in Japan. Later, as an editor and executive for ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, he lived in Japan for a decade. In 1979 he founded the Pacific Basin Institute, to promote greater understanding of the Pacific world and America’s place in it.

While Gibney does not gloss over problems within the diverse Asian societies he describes, his approach is that of an enthusiast and a friend. This is history written with passion, tempered by a shrewd grasp of geopolitical realities and liberally seasoned with insider’s anecdotes that add spice as well as authenticity to the narrative. In addition to illustrations (two hundred black-and-white photos and a color insert), the text is supplemented by maps, a very selective bibliography, and an index.