Ever since the early modern era, countries along the north Atlantic shores have dominated international relations. Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, England, and, most recently, the United States succeeded each other as the premier economic and military power in the past five centuries. During the last three decades, however, the Asia Pacific region has led the world in rapid industrialization and commercial expansion. This process points to a shift in the center of global political and economic gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific area, prompting many observers to describe the approaching twenty-first century as the Pacific Century.