TOKYO -- This is not the first Asian century. According to the late economic historian Angus Maddison, Asia accounted for more than half of world economic output for 18 of the last 20 centuries. The region's growing clout in the world economy is a "restoration," not a revolution, he said.
It took the massive concentration of capital in the West, the result of the Industrial Revolution and colonialism, for Europe to usurp the center of economic power in the 19th century. And it took two world wars for the U.S. to supplant the latter. Today, however, Asia's vast population -- more than half the world's inhabitants live there -- is reaching economic predominance once again.