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Michael's introduction
  The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of the world's surface and around it lives one-third of the world's population. Its seventy million square miles of water spill onto the shores of a rich and diverse assortment of countries. Some are global giants - Russia, China, Japan and The United States all have Pacific coastlines - others, such as Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Canada are, or are becoming, increasingly important and influential. The shores of the Pacific have long been a geomorphic entity, The Ring of Fire, bristling with volcanoes and split by constant earthquakes. Now the countries with coastline on this vast ocean are growing into a political and economic entity. They call it the Pacific Rim.

Experts predict that the Pacific Rim will be the powerhouse of the twenty-first century. Flushed with millennial zeal, Western commentators point to the final decline of the Mediterranean-Atlantic axis which has dominated the world for the past two thousand years. The future, we are told, belongs to the other side of the earth. The Pacific century is about to begin. As if to emphasize the potency of this change, the predatory wresting away of the Western initiative, the Pacific economies are likened to ferocious animals - tigers, dragons and the like. Fortunes are once again being won or lost beside the shark-infested waters of the South-East Pacific. More and more of what we eat, wear, listen to or watch is produced on the Pacific. More and more Western tourists are prepared to make the long journey out there. The Pacific Rim is a fact of life.

But do any of us actually know what the Pacific Rim consists of, which countries it is made up of and how far it stretches?

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